Taxpayers, school and local officials all facing choices of what to cut

Cuts in the school budget have taught parent Ed Kenmure one new aspect of the state’s growing deficit: how important it is to get involved.”I’m very concerned about the budget situation,” said Kenmure, 48, who has three children attending Brick schools and a 4-year-old daughter who will go to kindergarten next year. “I’ve become much more active.”

Kenmure’s youngest child, Isabella, will attend the Herbertsville Elementary School in the fall, not the Primary Learning Center, the district’s all-kindergarten school. The latter will shut down at the end of this school year, a victim of budget cuts.

Kindergartners next year will attend classes in Brick’s seven elementary schools.

The Primary Learning Center may have been a success educationally, but interim Superintendent Melindo A. Persi said that state education aid, which remained basically flat at $39 million for years, has forced the district to make cuts.

“It’s not a knock against the facility or the program,” Persi said. “We just can’t afford it anymore.”

The fiscal squeeze at Brick is also obvious elsewhere: The Howell school district is considering shutting an elementary school, and last year it cut after-school programs and some courtesy busing.

Brick has previously cut teaching positions, janitors, coaches and teachers’ aides.

“It was a great building, and a great program, but we can’t afford it anymore,” Kenmure said of the Primary Learning Center. “I’m sacrificing this for my daughter, and we all have to make sacrifices at this point.”

Now towns are caught in a similar spending vise: Gov. Corzine’s proposed budget for fiscal 2009 slashes $168 million in property tax relief aid for municipalities. Towns with populations under 5,000 will receive no property tax relief aid at all (but many still will receive other forms of municipal aid).

Toms River Council President Gregory P. McGuckin said the township lost nearly $800,000 in state aid, a 22 percent reduction from the prior year.

“To be honest with you, we’re still trying to digest it. We never expected it to be that high,” McGuckin said of the cut announced last week.



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