STATE – Before Gov. Chris Christie delivered his budget message on March 16, most school districts were preparing for a worst-case scenario involving a 15 percent cut in state funding. For most school administrators, that would represent a very welcome scenario indeed.
Woodbridge, needing to make up for the loss of $8.8 million – a third of its state aid – is planning to eliminate 280 jobs. Edison could eliminate 168 positions to deal with the loss of $9.7 million, more than half of its state aid. Rahway is looking at cutting around 50 jobs because of a $2.6 million reduction in aid.
According to the New Jersey School Boards Association, 92 percent of school districts expect to reduce staff. In most cases, teachers would be included in the layoffs. Eighty-two percent expect the state aid cuts to lead to higher property taxes. Two-thirds expect to cut extra-curricular programs.
In Woodbridge, 25 teachers would lose their jobs and middle school and freshman athletics would be eliminated. The district’s custodians and cafeteria workers would all be let go, to be replaced by private companies.
Edison would lose 106 teachers, some guidance counselors, security guards and a nurse. Field trips, summer school and middle school athletics would also become a part of the past.
Rahway plans to eliminate middle school sports, field trips, summer school and a counseling program for children with special needs. Some security personnel, guidance councilors, secretaries, paraprofessionals and administrators will lose their jobs.
Christie wants school boards to re-open contracts with local teachers’ unions to freeze salaries this year. He’s even offered to increase local school aid if teachers forgo raises.
The money would come from the state’s contributions to Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes for school employees. A district that saves $1 million in salaries as a result of wage freezes could receive an extra $76,500 in state aid.
Metuchen teachers already agreed to a voluntary salary freeze to save approximately 20 jobs. In Woodbridge, Business Administrator Dennis DeMarino said that if union members accepted a wage freeze, many of the planned layoffs could be avoided.
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