Recommendations on how to prevent a school tax increase in Lakewood, NJ, this year are still being hammered out, though a large number of layoffs will likely be avoided, according to a board of education member.
The board should vote on the proposed budget cuts at its Tuesday meeting, sending a final revised budget to the Township Committee for approval Thursday.
“No major layoffs will happen,” said Isaac Zlatkin, a board newcomer who campaigned for a zero-percent tax increase. “Can I tell you there’s not going to be some, maybe four or five. No, I can’t say that.”
Zlatkin said the board’s finance committee, which met Wednesday night, agreed to recommend shaving off the entire 10.65-percent tax rate hike that was proposed in the initial budget, which voters rejected last month. He would not, however, detail how that would be done until it’s “polished.”
Board members have said they are relying heavily on a higher-than-normal number of retirements this year to bring costs down.
Teachers’ union president Carol Cousins expressed concern about any potential layoffs, saying a loss of more than 150 district staff members since the 2007-08 school year has made it “very difficult to establish a solid teaching base.” She said she is also worried about the larger class sizes that could follow.
But Cousins said she too is pinning her hopes on the retirements of about 40 teachers, paraprofessionals and secretaries to cushion the blow.