Stanhope seeks a leaner school budget

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:13

    STANHOPE - Mayor Diana Kuncken and the Stanhope Borough Council held a "brainstorming" session on May 4 to look for ideas on how to cut the school board budget. Last week, the Stanhope Schools' proposed budget was defeated by voters by a 3-1 margin. The borough's high school district, Lenape Valley Regional High School District, also had its proposed budget defeated by a 2-1 margin. "This is a tough time, but we're a strong community and together we'll get through this," Kuncken said, addressing the council and others present. When a school budget is defeated, the local governing body has the option to accept the budget as proposed or amend it. The council has until May 19 to make a decision. As a way to lower the impact of school taxes on local residents, the council is considering cuts in both the Stanhope School District and the Lenape Valley Regional High School District. The council considered a joint proposal with Netcong and Byram to cut some $100,000 off the Lenape Valley Regional budget. The mayor and the council passed the proposal. Byram has already accepted the Lenape Valley budget cuts, and Netcong is expected to do the same in the coming days. In the Stanhope budget, the governing body is looking at cutting full-time kindergarten back to half day. Officials believe this would save some $45,000. Councilman James Benson suggested a look at the operations and personnel budgets. "We have an obligation to look at these areas. What can we learn about the budget from these departments?" he said. Councilman Ed Schwartz suggested sharing school services such as child study teams and guidance departments and possibly in the future regionalizing the school systems. In response, the council requested a breakdown of costs and operations of the child study teams. According to the board of education, the school must supply guidance counselors. However, they need not be on a full-time basis. A salary for a guidance counselor is approximately $68,000, not including benefits. The mayor suggested a possible three-day work week for guidance counselors at a salary of $40,000, saving the town $28,000. Transportation costs were also discussed. Councilman Schwartz suggested merging some Valley Road bus routes to save in transportation costs. The council has requested a breakdown of the $102,000 costs of transportation The council also asked that the maintenance department present a detailed account of its operation costs. Another area in question is $200,000 for administration support. The mayor and council would like to have more details about where exactly this money is spent. In addition the council questioned why the school cafeteria reported a $22,000 loss.