I’m writing to make sure people know about mayoral candidate Matt Moench’s record when it comes to supporting – or more accurately, not supporting – Bridgewater’s schools and teachers.
The starkest illustration of Moench’s disrespect for teachers happened in 2010, after Gov. Chris Christie reduced our district’s state aid by $10.8 million. The district adopted a number of difficult and controversial cuts, including eliminating 81 teaching positions, outsourcing the entire custodial staff and implementing activity fees for athletics and clubs. Even with these cuts, the budget could be balanced only because the BREA agreed to give concessions worth over $1.6 million.
Despite these cuts, local residents voted the budget down by a slim margin of 241 votes. Under the law at that time, that meant that the Bridgewater and Raritan councils had to agree on how much more to reduce the budget. Moench (who was Bridgewater council president at the time) said some truly nasty things about teachers, echoing the same rhetoric that was being used at the time by his mentor, Christie. After the teachers refused to succumb to pressure to accept a pay freeze, which would have saved the district $2.4 million, Councilman Moench was quoted in the Courier News as saying, “If the unions aren't willing to give that [their pay raise] up, I strongly believe that there are members [of the council] that will advocate for more than $2.4 million in cuts." In his zeal to break the teachers’ union, he dropped hints that the additional cuts could be as high as $5 million, which would have damaged programs for students. Moench was willing to use the district’s 9,000+ students and 1,000+ staff members as pawns in the budget fight. ortunately, reason prevailed on other members of the Bridgewater and Raritan councils, and they voted to cut “only” $1.037 million more from the budget.
Another example of Moench’s hostility to education involves bussing. New Jersey law requires schools to provide busses for most students, but children who live close enough to the school are required to walk. The municipality is required to make walking safe for those students or, if they can’t, pay for a bus. Every year, the Bridgewater council votes on a routine, mandatory resolution to reimburse the school district for this so-called “hazardous bussing.” And every year until 2018, Moench was the only council member who voted no. He believed that the township should be able to shift this expense to the schools, even though New Jersey law said otherwise. Moench changed his stance only when he realized that courting teachers and PTO members was important to his mayoral aspirations.
Finally, it bears mention that Moench has been highly critical of the BOE’s budgets. He either doesn’t realize or doesn’t care that moderate tax increases are critical to maintaining our strong school system. Plus, he doesn’t appreciate the fact that the BOE has been responsibly avoiding debt, while he and the council have responded to the Township’s own financial pressures by borrowing extensively.
That is why I am voting for Jeffrey Brookner for mayor of Bridgewater and his running-mates for township council, Patti Selikoff and John Arcoleo, along with the entire Column 1 team on Nov. 5, and I hope you will join me.