As Concerns Over Budget Cuts Mount, SOMSD Says Nothing is Decided

by The Village Green
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The recent revelation that the South Orange – Maplewood School District faces some extremely painful budget decisions that will almost certainly include teacher and staff cuts at all school levels, community members have voiced fears and concerns.

Petitions have been launched to protest the proposed elimination of two media specialists as well as the possible shuttering of the Columbia High School pool. In addition, in order to avoid what Superintendent Dr. John Ramos termed an impending “fiscal cliff” of a projected deficit that could reach $20 million by 2020, the administration has proposed slashing other teacher and staff positions as well as supplies, programs and professional development.

On the other hand, some residents have urged the Board of Education to stave off the most drastic cuts by using funds banked from prior years to raise the tax levy beyond 2%.

Rumors have circulated around the towns and on social media alleging that some staff members — especially media specialists — had already been informed they would lose their jobs. Village Green reached out to the district on Friday to address the rumors and confirm where the district currently stands in the budget process.

“The budget presentation from Monday night included 19 projected personnel reductions as well as other spending reductions for next year,” said a district spokeswoman. “This includes two media specialist positions – one at the high school and one at the middle schools. At this point, the budget has not yet been approved.”

See the budget presentation here:

Download (PDF, 2.4MB)

“Budget reductions are always difficult, especially when it comes to personnel,” said the spokeswoman. “As a courtesy, whenever a position is identified to be potentially cut, we have a conversation with non-tenured staff in those positions so that they are aware of the potential cut before any public presentation. But it does not mean that any specific person is going to lose their jobs.”

The Board of Education will meet again at a community forum on Monday, March 7 at 7 p.m. at 525 Academy Street, followed by a hearing and vote on the preliminary budget at the Board’s regular meeting on March 21. The public is invited to comment at both meetings.

Read more about the budget schedule for the next few months and the opportunities for public comment here.

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