The South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education voted 7-2 to pass a $125 million budget for the 2016-17 school year on Monday night; Board members Johanna Wright and Donna Smith voted against.
The budget uses $409,103 in banked taxing authority — which would have expired after this year — to save four elementary school positions, likely at Seth Boyden School. However, a total of 15 FTEs or full-time staff positions will be slashed; 9 of them teachers at Columbia High School. Also cut are two library media specialists, a move that has been controversial.
CHS would lose the following full-time teachers: 2 math, 2 science, 1 English Language Arts, 1 social studies, 1 physical education, 2 world languages. CHS also will see the loss of a media specialist. The middle schools will lose two teachers and one media specialist.
The total amount of additional taxes to be raised is $2,737,407 or 2.43%, which represents an additional $226 per average Maplewood household and an additional $249 in taxes for the average South Orange household.
Before the vote, former SOMS librarian Elissa Malespina, a vocal critic of cuts to the library program, once again pleaded with the BOE to rethink their decision and maintain the librarians.
Calling it a “very hard budget cycle” that is likely to happen in future years as well, former BOE member Jeff Bennett advocated for new housing developments in the two towns, which he said could bring in much-needed tax revenue and ease the burden on the school system. Such developments were “a great asset.”
Former BOE member Steve Latz added his recommendation that the towns consider the positive tax impact of assisted living developments, which will broaden the tax base and draw seniors to SOMA.
The Board of Education will meet next on Thursday, May 12, at 7:30 pm in a combined meeting with the already scheduled May 12 reorganization meeting in the District Meeting Room, 525 Academy Street, Maplewood, NJ. Action will be taken.