HACKENSACK, NJ -- A group of about a dozen Hackensack residents have formed a new non-profit organization to oppose the $169.9 million school referendum that is being held on January 22.
Hackensack Smart Schools Inc. was established about a month ago by Martin Cramer, a former Teaneck Town Council Member and Town Attorney who now lives in Hackensack.
Cramer told TAPinto Hackensack today that his group is doing a city-wide mailing and conducting other voter education efforts to oppose the referendum that they believe is too costly and unnecessary. “It’s like fighting against a rigged system,” he said. “But the key is to educate the public about what is really happening.”
Although Board of Education officials state that the owner of a home assessed at $245,000 (city average) will pay a little more than $300 a year in higher school taxes, Cramer believes that figure is much higher. He also believes that school officials have been deliberately misleading the public.
Cramer says that materials created by the school district state that the $169.9 million bond issue “includes all interest costs” and that this is completely false. Cramer says that with interest, the bond issue will actually cost city taxpayers over $318 million. He adds that Acting Superintendent Rosemary Marks yesterday acknowledged the error during a meeting he attended.
“They have made what they call a mistake at least two times,” Cramer adds. “To me, that sounds like an intentional mistake.”
Marks acknowledged that the $169.9M figure does not include interest costs, but did not comment directly on Cramer's allegations.
School district officials say the referendum is necessary to upgrade the city's deteriorating public schools. Visitors to the school district's website can see a presentation that extols the plan for reducing school overcrowding, improving security and expanding programs. If approved by voters, the district would build a new Junior High School and a parking facility near the current Hackensack High School and make various upgrades to the district's other existing buildings, at a price tag of $169.9 million which would be partially offset by state aid and funded by long term borrowing.
The BOE is holding three public meetings for residents to discuss the proposed referendum:
Tuesday January 8, 7:00pm at Mount Olive Baptist Church, Logan Family Life Center
Tuesday January 15, 7:00pm at the Hackensack High School
Wednesday, January 16, 8:00pm at Jackson Avenue School
Mayor John Labrosse has asked school officials to give voters the opportunity to approve a smaller plan that would make all necessary improvements to the city’s current schools but stop short of building a new $100 million school. But the school district rejected that idea and is moving ahead with the January 22 vote.
Labrosse has stated that none of his neighbors are even aware of the upcoming vote and that his own property taxes would increase by more than $400. “I really wish that the Board of Education would give people the opportunity to support a more phased-in approach that would lessen the pain for homeowners, but they insist on going ahead with this all or nothing plan.”