Governor Christie's budget cuts were not designed to increase the property tax burden on the citizens. Yet, the Berkeley Heights Board of Education wants to increase the tax levy by 5.43%. Because it lost $2 million in state aid for 10/11 budget year, the Board of Education is seeking to have the taxpayers pay almost $1.9 million to make up for this lost aid. In short, it is business as usual for the Board of Education.
Here are a few things that the Board of Education is not telling the public. According to the Board's statistics, in the 04/05 school year, there were 2,831 students. In 10/11 school year, there are only an estimated 16 more students, or 2,847 students. Yet, even after the Board's proposed staffing cuts, the Board has 3.8 more full-time teachers paid from the general and special revenue funds, 0.5 more health services, 4 more guidance counselors, 3 more CST members and 45 more "other" unidentified full time equivalents. There are 40.7 additional teaching, supervisory and other positions added in these 6 years for these additional 16 students. I have no information what these positions are costing the taxpayers. These numbers are based on Board documents generated on 3/23/10 and may not include the $250,000 that the Board added to the budget at the close of the March 22, 2010 meeting after most of the public left the meeting. There could even be more staff than this. View the Board documents here and here.
The Board still provides after school sports for an average cost per pupil of $433. Some are expensive, such as ice hockey, which costs $50,000 and serves 13 students. Other sports are also expensive and serve few students. It does not appear that the Board is planning a single cut any school sport. The Board is planning to cut only some stipends, uniforms and transportation. The Highlander Foundation put an Astroturf field in at the high school. The Board will still make a $23,000 or more charitable contribution to the Highlander Foundation, as it has every year since 2006, based on a back door deal to circumvent the voters' refusal to pay for the high school athletic field directly.
The teachers demanded, and the Board quickly acquiesced to, giving teachers raises of 4.0%, 4.1% and 4.1% raises over the next three years. The teachers pay absolutely nothing for medical premiums for them and their families unless they choose to have a deluxe plan. There is an additional $521,000 added to the budget to pay for this freebie. Neither the administration, the teachers, nor the Board have any conception of today's economy. If you want to find out more about their contracts, such as how many hours per day these teachers have to work, the information is available at http://www.perc.state.nj.us/publicsectorcontracts.nsf.
I urge the taxpayers to vote down this budget. The Township Council can make significant cuts without affecting educational programs. The taxpayers should not have to pay for 40.7 additional positions for 16 students. The taxpayers should not have to pay for charitable contributions. The taxpayers should not have to pay for every single after school activity that any parent wants.