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Morristown school adopts $8.5 million budget

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MORRISTOWN - The school district’s Board of Education on Monday unanimously approved an $8.5 million 2012-13 budget that eliminates four positions and carries a 2.92 percent tax levy increase.

“Our cap limit equates to $94,850 in tax revenue,” said Superintendent David J. Glover Tuesday, adding that next year’s budget actually represents a $100,586 decrease, about 1.2 percent, from the current $8,633,028 budget.

By using $649,887 in fund balance - $479,000 from reserves and $170,887 in applied - the district was able to keep the average proposed tax rate at $15.85 per $1,000 of assessed property value, Mr. Glover said.

“We’re looking at eliminating four positions overall, two teachers and two assistants,” he said.

Those positions include a high school social studies teacher and a high school English teacher. Mr. Glover said teachers with dual certifications will share responsibilities.

“There are class size concerns, but if you look around the area, 25 students (per class) is pretty common,” he said. “We’re not used to it - single digits to mid to high teens has been the norm. We’re branching back into class sizes similar to those around us.”

Additional cuts include the reduction of a technology teacher and a music teacher to half time, a Spanish teacher to .75 time, the special education chairperson from .7 time to half time, and the clerical staff to 11 months.

The administrative budget has been trimmed to under 10 percent of the entire budget, and two bus drivers will also be eliminated.

“The effort there is to try to keep the music piece, in terms of choirs and bands, in place,” the superintendent said.

Previously, the board had contemplated cutting two full music positions, a move that jeopardized the district’s successful marching band program.

Another upsetting development was revealed after state aid runs were announced last week.

Morristown was expecting an additional $26,000 in state aid, Mr. Glover said, but a clerical error turned that expected increase into about a $100,000 reduction.

“We ran into an error in our aid reports that needed fixing. With the mistake, the district’s combined wealth ratio was affected. When that data entry was corrected, our expenditure aid, as a result, was too. The mistake was unfortunately not in our favor, but that’s where we’re at,” he said.

Mr. Glover said the financial situation experienced by Morristown and other public schools is not going away any time soon.

“We’re not done advocating for equity in funding. Budget seasons are not budget seasons anymore. It’s a year-round job now. That’s the level of advocacy we need. We’re fighting for the survive-ability of schools,” he said. “We all get that we have to do things differently. But how do you justify choking us out? Students in Morristown deserve a sound, basic education just like students anywhere else.”

A budget hearing will be held May 7 at 6 p.m. in the school’s wireless computer lab, with voting on the budget to occur May 15. Along with the budget, district voters elect candidates to four open seats on the board of education - three three-year terms currently belonging to board President Scot A. Rupert, James H. Bogardus III, and Gary R. Baldwin, and the remaining year of a seat vacated earlier this year by Kimberly A. Marshall.

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