Byram educators thankful to avoid state spending cuts

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:47

    BYRAM-Education officials in Byram and the surrounding communities are breathing a sigh of relief today n if only temporarily -- after acting Gov. Richard Codey announced last week no further cuts in state funding for the 2005 school year. Under Codey's budget proposal, Lenape Valley Regional High School and the Byram Township Board of Education will not receive additional help from Trenton, making it three out of four years without an increase in state aid. All but the state's 31 neediest districts will get the same state aid as last year. "No increase, no decrease is favorable in these fiscal times," said Paul Palek Jr., superintendent for Lenape Valley Regional High School. "We're playing at the mercy of the state every year." Palek said Lenape Valley's school board tentatively adopted a budget, which was submitted this week to the Sussex County Superintendent of Schools for approval. He said the budget represents no cuts in programs or staff despite an increase in enrollment next year of 30 to 35 students. "We're at the threshold of being able to run our programs without any cuts," he said. "We're putting a fair and equitable budget before the voters. A failure of this budget would require cuts." The governor's budget would increase overall aid for public education from $305 million to $9.3 billion, making education the single largest account in the $27.4 billion state funding package. "This is the fourth straight year of fiscal incompetence and mismanagement," said Assemblyman Guy Gregg (R-24). "The state is not responding with any concern. If you're a superintendent or a school board member looking toward your next budget, there aren't too many solutions." Sussex County Superintendent of Schools Barry Worman said there is no "firm answer" for solving Trenton's woes, but relief must start with the state legislators. He said schools, including Sussex Tech in Sparta, are already looking at cuts in programs and staffs. "A reduction in state aid to the districts would have been devastating," he said. "It was almost a relief that the budget was flat-funded. Limitations are good, but they can't be a stranglehold on the district when the cost of living is what it is." Almost $300 million of the governor's education budget is in fixed teacher pension