Mt. Olive Township Council Minutes
May 17, 2002

The Special Public Meeting of the Mount Olive Township Council was called to order at 6:15 pm by Council President Scapicchio with the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.

MOMENT OF REFLECTION

President Scapicchio: If everyone would just join us. At these Public Meetings, we now do a moment of reflection of the men and women fighting terrorism and defending the freedom that we all enjoy.

According to the Open Public Meetings Act, adequate Notice of this Meeting has been given to the Mt. Olive Chronicle and the Morristown Daily Record. Notice has been posted at in the Municipal Building, 204 Flanders-Drakestown Road, Mt. Olive, New Jersey, and notices were sent to those requesting the same.

ROLL CALL: Present: Mr. Guenther, Mr. Greenbaum, Mr. Rattner, Mr. Scapicchio, Mr. Spino
Absent: Mrs. Miller, Mr. Perkins

RESOLUTIONS - NON CONSENT

1. Resolution RE: Certification of Tax Levy (School District Budget).

Mr. Greenbaum moved for approval of the Resolution and Mr. Guenther seconded the motion.

PUBLIC PORTION ON INDIVIDUAL RESOLUTIONS

President Scapicchio: Mr. Higgins, can you read that resolution into the record for us?

Gary Higgins, Twp. Auditor: WHEREAS, the district tax levy for the General Fund portion of the 2002/03 budget of? the Board of Education of the Township of Mount Olive in the amount of $37,726,007 was defeated by the voters of the Township of Mount Olive at the annual school election held on April 16, 2002, and

WHEREAS, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:22-37, the Municipal Council did receive the proposed school budget and has consulted with the local Board of Education on May 7, May 14, and May 17, 2002 to discuss the proposed 2002/03 school budget, and

WHEREAS, the Municipal Council did review said 2002/03 budget with the recommendations and justifications for the reduction in the amount of $1,147,846 in the General Fund budget tax levy for 2002/03 as per Attachment A.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE If RESOLVED, that the Municipal Council of the Township of Mount Olive does hereby certify to the Morris County Board of Taxation, that the amount necessary to be levied for the General Fund budget to provide a thorough and efficient education for the Township of Mount Olive School District for the school year 2002/03 is $36,578,161.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the amount to be levied for debt service certified to the Morris County Board of Taxation shall be $2,581,095 for the school year 2002/03.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that a certified copy of this resolution shall be forwarded forthwith to the Morris County Board of Taxation, the Morris County Superintendent of Schools, the Mount Olive Board of Education and the Tax Assessor of the Township of Mount Olive.

Mr. Spino: Just a question, do we have to accept this recommendation or can we add, for example, the cutting of another teacher? I see on the last page, there were originally nine, you dropped it down to five.

Mr. Higgins: That's not nine teaching positions, there were two maintenance positions offered in the high school that we cut so the three positions end up being two teachers, one in grade 6-8 and one in grade 9-12 and then one of the two specialists. So it would be two teachers, one specialist and two maintenance that make up the five positions whereby the unallocated benefits were cut. Taking some of the information given by the Board on their proposed cuts, the Council did reinstate the half guidance counselor and substituted that with the transportation services for the two students coming back in the district. Additionally, what was earlier proposed, the breakage and the cost of tuition for the two students out of district deleted the reduction of the basic skills salaries of teachers so they were basically reinstated too.


President Scapicchio: Earl, the Committee had originally, the District had in their budget 15.9 new teachers.

Mr. Guenther: Excuse me, that wasn't just new teachers, it was all the other…

Mr. Higgins: Well, when we say teachers, I guess we clarified earlier, they are not all classroom teachers. They actually even included half a guidance counselor.

President Scapicchio: But they call them teachers. There were 15.9. We reduced that originally down to 9.5. After listening to the rationale provided by the School Board George Johnson, Scott Ireland made a recommendation that we add four additional teachers, that we had originally identified as savings, back into the budget based on enrollment and class sizes and that's where it is now, Earl. I'll tell you that the Council Committee was divided on whether or not they wanted to add those back in. If the majority was here, that probably would not have passed. The majority that was in attendance of this Committee meeting agreed with Mr. Ireland's recommendation and that's identified in the resolution that is sitting in front of you.

Mr. Spino: So what you are saying, instead of 15.9, you will allow 13.5?

Mr. Higgins: 13.9 now. We swapped the guidance counselor half body also and replaced it with the District's offer to reduce transportation services for two students, special ed children who will be brought back in the district. So out of the 15.9 proposed, the school district ended up only losing two of those positions based on the proposed cuts on attachment A.

Mr. Spino: My question is if we can delete one more.

President Scapicchio: Earl, you can certainly, we're missing our attorney here today, unfortunately, you can make an amendment to this resolution and if you are inclined to do that, Earl, you need to make an amendment to it, specify what that amendment is, and get a second.

Mr. Spino: In grades one to five, I would include one more cut.

President Scapicchio: So you would want to cut one additional teacher at $48,000?

Mr. Spino: If that is what it comes out to.

President Scapicchio: Earl has an amended motion on the table. Does any one want to second that?

Mr. Guenther seconded the Motion to Amend the Resolution.

President Scapicchio: Any public discussion? If you want to say something, come up here, Larry.

Larry McEntee, Mt. Olive Bd. Of Ed.: I don't think it is a good idea to cut a teacher in K-5, Earl. We're busting at the seams in K-5 as it is. Second grade is 28 kids, we're expecting it to go to 29 in third grade. It's not an acceptable level. Cutting teachers in the K-5 level is unacceptable from our perspective. I just think it is, you are not looking at the whole picture. We're cutting out over $1 million out of a budget with a school bursting at the seams. We are over 400 more kids than we were two years ago with a reduction in State Aid and the community expansion of the Township. It's going to come. It's going to come out somewhere. We are going to have to make some choices where we are going to cut because we have to educate the kids. We don't decide whether the schools come to the school. They move in and then they come. I just think K-5 is a critical position, one of them is at Tinc Road, it's in the third grade, it's going to be the largest third grade class.

President Scapicchio: Anyone else from the public? Seeing none, we'll close the public portion. Council discussion on Mr. Spino's amended…

Mr. Greenbaum: I'm not in favor of the amendment. I heard the discussion by the Subcommittee. I appreciate the argument made the School Board. I don't see that deletion at this point as being significant in terms of our responsibilities and I do see it as significant in terms of the educational needs of the elementary children in the K-5 grades and I would not be in favor of it.

Mr. Rattner: I'm sorry I'm late but it did take me almost three hours to get here. Route 287 is a mess, you'll probably hear about it tomorrow. What I'm looking at here, I guess is the original proposal that the committee came up with, I think I just heard it was 15.9 with everything out, you basically came from the committee agreeing of basically reducing 2 positions. You are still going with 13.9 and what Earl has
Mr. Rattner (cont'd): asked for is to cut one more additional. Now the way I look at it, $1.1 million, was a lot of work to get there and the one thing that I've always been scared about touching is something directly in the classroom. I don't think anybody has ever complained about a teacher. It's the other expenses. We hear about how much Administration you have. It's a lot of that superfluous stuff. This is an actual teacher who is in a classroom.

Mr. Spino: It's a new hire.

Mr. Rattner: It doesn't matter. It's a teacher in the classroom that if I'm going to make any mistake, that's the one place I that I'm going to, you know, be a little easier or make a mistake, it's going to be on the side of having an extra teacher. That's the one thing that directly affects the kids. The carpeting on the floor doesn't, so many other things, don't. A teacher does mean something so from what I know from looking at the number, it hasn't changed too much from the committee report we got and you are able to do it without cutting teachers, I'll go with the way the committee submitted it so I will vote no on the amendment.

COUNCIL COMMENTS ON INDIVIDUAL RESOLUTIONS

ROLL CALL (on amended Resolution): Defeated, Mr. Spino voted Yes

Mr. Guenther: Just before I vote, I want to say, even though I supported in subcommittee a reduction of a couple more teachers, I don't think this is the place to cut it. I would cut at the high school so I'll also vote No.

Mr. Guenther: It's been an arduous process. A process I think that not only the committee members but, especially us on the Council, I'm uncomfortable with it. I hate it. I wish we weren't put in that position to have to make some of these hard choices. I congratulate the work that Gary Higgins did. I think he did a thorough job in providing us the information that we needed and I think I know it's painful. The board members, I'm sure most of them don't agree with what we are doing but I believe these are the times that try men's souls. They are tough times and the voters spoke on April 16th as to what should be done. I don't agree with the Council President wholeheartedly, his position that the voters asked us to just look at it. I think the vote by the large margin in which it went through, asked us to reduce. How much to reduce is really up to us. I think we've done a good job. I don't want to pat myself on the back. It's just been difficult but I hope that we don't go through this process again. I hope next year, the Board does a better job of selling their budget to the public and getting it out there, getting the information out there to the public so that they can intelligently make a voting decision when they go into the voting booth. I don't think that happened this year and probably there was a lot of misinformation out there amongst the public that went to vote that didn't understand what was in the budget and I think it behooves both the Administration and the Board to do that next year and hopefully we won't be sitting here again next year.

Mr. Greenbaum: Let me just say that I appreciate what the Board of Education has to go through in terms of putting together the budget and all that they do during the course of the year. It really is a thankless job and their intent is to provide in the best interests of our children yet our role here is kind of a hybrid role. We have to protect everyone's interests within the town to make sure that those who do not have children in the district and those that do have children in the school district and those who pay taxes in town are represented in the process when the budget is not approved by the voters. I know it is a thankless task being part of the committee. I didn't volunteer to become part of the committee for personal reasons but I appreciate the efforts of everyone that did participate and Mr. Higgins as well but I think that this is a fair resolution of the issue and I'm prepared to vote in favor of the resolution as it currently stands.

President Scapicchio: I'd just like to finalize it by saying that I wear three hats here; I'm a parent, I'm a taxpayer and I'm a Councilman who is actually charged with reviewing and voting on a resolution that adopts this school budget. I believe that the committee looked at this in a thorough, responsible way. The Board of Education was very cooperative in supplying us with the information that we requested in a timely fashion and I am satisfied that we have made or identified the appropriate savings that do not open the classroom door and still provide a thorough and efficient education for the students of Mount Olive Township and I will also be supporting this resolution.

ROLL CALL (on original Resolution): Passed Unanimously

President Scapicchio: We have a memorandum from Mr. Higgins and our ratings have gone from, Mr. Higgins, why don't you.


Mr. Higgins: The Township will be selling Bonds next Tuesday at 11 o'clock, $7,665,000 in general obligation bonds. During the past week, the Chief Financial Officer, Sherry Jenkins, and myself made a presentation to Moody's Investor Services from whom the Township receives there rating from. Subsequent to the rating presentation, we were notified, just the other day, that the rating of the Township has been upgraded from an A1 to a AA3 and basically, what this means is that this will translate to lower interest costs and savings on interest on future borrowings for the Township. That's some good news and Tuesday we will receive the bids. The most current rates are around 4.2%-4.3% for 15 year bonds which we are looking at and we look to obtain a favorable rating on Tuesday morning when we take the competitive bids.

Motion to adjourn made and seconded. All in favor, none opposed, the meeting was adjourned at 7:00 p.m.


_______________________
DAVID SCAPICCHIO
Council President

I, LISA M LASHWAY, Township Clerk of the Township of Mount Olive do hereby certify that the foregoing Minutes is a true and correct copy of the Minutes approved at a legally convened meeting of the Mount Olive Township Council duly held on June 18, 2002


________________________
LISA M. LASHWAY
Mount Olive Township Clerk

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