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Brick School Board Axes Budget After State Education Cutback

Brick school board president John Lamela announcing budget cuts, July 27, 2017. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Brick school board president John Lamela announcing budget cuts, July 27, 2017. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Brick school officials used a combination of surplus dollars and budget cuts to make up for a reduction in state funding for the township school district.

The state cut $720,507 from the district in a deal hatched by Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson), and signed into law by Republican Gov. Chris Christie in exchange for the legislators’ agreement to his plan to increase oversight of the Horizon Blue Cross-Blue Shield health insurance provider.

The actions at the state level forced Brick school officials to tap their surplus account to the tune of $361,934 and cut an additional $358,573 from expenditures already approved for the 2017-18 school year.

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No staff will be laid off, officials said. The cutbacks include funding for sports supplies and materials, including new banners for the high school gyms, a $44,000 reduction to the Child Study Team that will be made up through software efficiencies and a number of facility items, such as doors at the two high schools, an end-zone camera for the football fields and work on the Drum Point Elementary School bathrooms.

Officials had mixed reactions to the cuts.

“I appreciate some of the cost savings that we’re having and I appreciate putting off some priorities that are just going to have to wait,” said board member Victoria Pakala. “There isn’t anything I see on these cuts that would cause any danger or insecure positions for our students as long as we keep them as a priority when funding may be restored.”

Board President John Lamela took a tougher stance.

“We worked hard for a budget, and the state cutting that budget, I don’t have words,” he said.

Business Administrator James Edwards said documentation from the state on how to make up for the budget cuts included “innocuous” language about an appeals process for districts than can demonstrate a hardship caused by the loss of funding. He said Superstorm Sandy’s lingering effects on the township’s tax base could, in theory, make Brick eligible for some of the funding to be restored down the road.

“It’s yet to be determined and there are no guidelines,” Edwards said of the appeals process. “We’ve been in constant communication with the legislative offices and [Department of Education].”

The full list of budget cuts is detailed in this document.