Friday, March 26, 2010

End Reckless School Spending in NJ : Support Governor Christie's Call To Action

Chris Rogers and I wrote the following op-ed piece which was published as a letter to the editor in the March 26th issue of the Roxbury Register:

Roxbury Register > Opinion

Two Roxbury school board members back Christie

Published: Mar 26th, 7:05 AM

During his recent appearance on NJ 101.5 FM radio, Gov. Christie emphatically stated “it’s absolutely untrue” that a school board has to raise property taxes because the state froze aid in the amount of their excess surplus and said people should not stand for a school board that makes this claim.

What is really driving increases in school budgets, the governor continued, are negotiated contracts like the one in the Marlboro school district,where teachers received annual 4.5% salary increases for the next five years with zero contributions to health benefits.

We’re here to tell the good people of the state that, in our opinion, Gov. Christie knows exactly what he’s talking about and needs your support.

Let’s look at the facts in Roxbury, where the school board is indeed blaming the state for the anticipated increase in property taxes.

Fact: Roxbury teachers were handed a retroactive 4.3 percent wage increase for ‘07-’08 and a 4.7 percent wage increase last year, this year, and the next with not having to pay a dime towards their health insurance premiums.

This is thanks to the approval of an irresponsible contract by the majority of the school board, including two of the unchallenged incumbents regaining their seats in the upcoming school election.

With approximately 85 percent of the Roxbury school budget going into the pockets of it’s employees, it’s plain both the students and the taxpayers are paying handily for the action of the school board, not that of the Governor’s.

Fact: School boards are by law allowed to craft an annual school budget with a 4 percent growth in the tax levy.

Does anyone really believe the Roxbury school board wasn’t going to follow their customary practice of going to cap whether the state froze excess surplus or not?

Another fact: After the voters defeated the Roxbury school budget last year, the Superintendent and school board professed a $1 million budget cut would devastate the district.

So instead of listening to the voter mandate to make cuts that would give the public real tax relief, the majority of the town council threw up their hands to the “school cartel” in a showdown well orchestrated by the school board and central office administration and cut only $500,000.

The result? Not only did Roxbury school district end up retaining a 2 percent budget surplus of about $1.5 million, it amassed another $1 million plus in unused funds.

In our view, Gov. Christie took back state aid because, frankly, the school board could not find ways to spend the taxpayer’s money fast enough.

Again, the blame can only be placed on the shoulders of your local government officials, not the Governor’s.

So let’s be clear, Gov. Christie’s recent cut to Roxbury school district’s surplus funds will not raise property taxes any more than the district already intended to raise them.

What Gov. Christie’s executive order will do is: 1) close the budget gap on state spending without new taxation and more importantly 2) force Roxbury and other school districts to limit spending on those items that we “want” but the taxpayers can no longer afford.

Without question, there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way Roxbury school board views future school spending.

When it comes to it’s budget, the school board needs to remember the difference between “want” and “need”.

They must learn to cut items and positions that not only have seriously jeopardized the quality and stability of our children’s education, but also puts the squeeze on the taxpayers.

Everyone in the school district, including the Roxbury Education Association, needs to realize the well has run dry. The NJEA and its sub chapters cannot continue to hold school boards throughout New Jersey hostage.

If the teachers union and school establishment’s mantra, “it’s for the children”, is going to really mean something, then everyone is going to have to start giving rather than taking.

We urge Roxbury residents to rebuke the administration’s and school board’s usual scare tactics of threatening to cut items that will cause our kids and parents “maximum pain” and demand they work harder and smarter with the money they’ve been entrusted to oversee.

Let’s see budget cuts that will reduce entitlements and empire building rather than taking away from the classroom.

Lastly, New Jersey’s new leader, Gov. Christie, is taking bold action to try and turn this state around.

As NJ school board members and residents, we’re thankful that someone has finally risen to the occasion and is willing to take on the special interests groups rather than bow down to them.

We urge all NJ citizens to contact their legislators and tell them you expect them to take up the Governor’s call to action and support legislation that will finally end the reign of indulgent, reckless spending of our tax dollars by school boards and help regain the solvency and respectability of our state and it’s public education system.

Lastly, we are speaking on our own behalf and not that of the Roxbury Township Board of Education.
The opinions we expressed are our own and do not represent those of the board, individual board members, or district employees.


Roxbury Board of Education Members
Roxbury Township