Monday, June 19, 2006


Winslow schools seek tax hike

Courier-Post Staff

School property taxes would rise 4 percent under an $86.3 million spending proposal submitted by the Winslow Township Board of Education in appealing its defeated budget to state officials.

But even if the state Department of Education resolves the appeal in Winslow's favor, the state of the school district's finances remains unclear.

"I believe that the financial picture is not as presented by the administration," said Mayor Sue Ann Metzner, who reviewed the district's spending after voters defeated the 2006-07 budget by a wide margin in April.

"There is a lot of money that is not accounted for to my satisfaction, and not accounted for doesn't mean it's missing," Metzner said.

Interim Superintendent Michael E. Schreiner could not be reached for comment.

After voters rejected the budget, the Winslow Township Committee -- which includes Metzner -- recommended cutting $3.1 million, effectively holding spending and taxes to current levels.

The school board asked the state Department of Education to restore $1.55 million, or about half, of the committee's cuts. With the restoration, the owner of a home assessed at $100,000 would pay a school property tax of $2,623, an increase of $109.

"I have to go with what the administration provides me . . . and the administration feels that a $3.1 million cut would be detrimental to the school district," said school board President Robert J. Bartolone.

Winslow's budget situation is complicated by a reported $3.7 million current-year deficit that caused the layoffs of nine school-district employees and drew scrutiny from the state Department of Education's Office of Compliance Investigation.

A state auditor completed her work earlier this month, and a report is forthcoming.

Metzner said school district officials told her the auditor found no such deficit.

"It appears that will become a fact within the next week or so," she said. "The difficulty is that you have people that are saying there . . . was this deficit, and there is no reason to believe at this time that there was any deficit. And how do you deal with people that just don't deal straight with you?"

A spokesman for the state Department of Education said that the compliance auditor's report must be made public after it is considered by the school board.

Reach Erik Schwartz at (856) 486-2904 or