Letters to the Editor

Community Alert: WE HAVE LOST OUR RIGHT TO VOTE!

0d490cf8aa3de888b3be_letter_to_the_editor.jpg
0d490cf8aa3de888b3be_letter_to_the_editor.jpg

To the Editor:

On Tuesday, February 14, 2012, Millburn awoke to its own St. Valentine's Day Massacre:  Six of the nine members of the Millburn Board of Education the night before unilaterally usurped our right to vote on our school budget and school taxes -- essentially forever. Rather than allowing the TAXPAYERS to decide whether they wished to give up an inherent property right in voting for school taxes, a majority of the Board of Education -- under the cover of darkness, without providing the township proper notice or a hearing -- implemented a barely month-old NJ law that moves BOE elections from April to November, but also eliminates the right to vote on budget tax levies so long as the tax levy is below the state-mandated 2% cap. This is the same BOE that engaged in a protracted, months-long debate about a new "naming policy," yet cavalierly compromised our voting rights in just one meeting.

The upshot:  We no longer have any vote on how much taxes we pay for the school district budget  – the same budget that costs taxpayers over 52% of every real-estate-tax dollar; the same budget that has grown exponentially for the past 10 years while our enrollment has been flattening; the same budget that contains over $10 million in various surplus funds sloshing around.  The same budget of almost $85 million of our money for which our tax dollars provide over 95% of the District's annual costs – one of the highest local rates in the State of New Jersey -- and our BOE saw fit to take away our right to vote on our school budget forever.

Sign Up for E-News

Under the new law, either the local Board of Education, the Township Committee or the voters via referendum could decide to move the BOE elections to November.  The BOE had the option to leave it up to the voters and taxpayers to make the decision to eliminate our budget voting rights, but they instead opted to ignore the voters and taxpayers.  Most of the community was unaware that this vote was even taking place.  The community is just now realizing the finality and consequences of the BOE’s decision. 

The right to vote on the budget and tax levy provides important community oversight.  By eliminating our taxpayer right to vote on school budgets and taxes, we forgo the ability to communicate to the BOE and Administration what the community believes should be spending priorities.  It's not just whether a tax increase is within a state-mandated cap; it's a check and balance on what priorities appear within the budget itself.  This community oversight has been a part of local school control for decades upon decades in New Jersey.  We cannot give up this right!

Some School Board members defended their decision by noting that many NJ School Districts had decided to move to the November vote.  Millburn, however, has never been like many of NJ School Districts. That is the reason many of us are here and not in Ridgefield Park or Union or Wayne or Warren. Is it the intention of our District Administrators and Board of Education to make us like many other NJ School Districts, which will serve only to homogenize our schools and drive this District towards the middle?  Is that what we really want for our children and our community?  Other highly regarded districts, such as Chatham and Princeton, decided to see how the untested law worked and to leave it to their taxpayers to decide whether to alter materially their district's governance.  The few members of the public who regularly attend BOE meetings in our town implored our board to do as Chatham and Princeton -- but six of the nine BOE members scoffed at or outright ignored those pleas.

Some Millburn BOE members also pointed to low voter turnout for the April school elections as a reason to move the vote to November.  But because the new law incongruously ties the BOE elections to eliminating the right to vote on budget-tax levies, our right to vote on the budget has been eviscerated.   In effect, these six BOE members decided that because many of us don’t regularly vote in April, they were entitled to take the vote away from us. The message is clear:  Six BOE members really don't want to hear what you have to say about the budget and what you pay in taxes.

The 2% cap is today’s tax cap and has been in effect for only a few years.  It may change in the future to a higher cap, but because of our BOE’s recent decision, we will still not have the opportunity to vote on our school budget and taxes regardless of how much it increases.  This BOE’s decision has changed the paradigm in our community forever.

What can we do?  First, we believe the resolution approving this change has myriad deficiencies, including at least two BOE members voting in favor potentially having glaring conflicts of interest.  One BOE member who also happens to be on the committee negotiating with the teachers' union effectively said he was voting for this provision in order to extend his term (which would have expired with the April 2012 election).  The BOE should immediately move to revoke the resolution it passed and vote on a new one -- one that leaves it for voters to decide. 

Second, the community can seek to recall the BOE members who voted in favor of taking away our taxpayer voting rights.  And third, our community may challenge this enabling law on constitutional grounds because the right to vote is a property right and the BOE's taking of that property right resulted in an unconstitutional taking.

The next Board of Education meeting will be held on Monday, February 27, 2012, at 7:45 pm, at The Ed Center.  Come to the Board of Education meeting and let your Board of Education know what you think about their decision to take away your right to vote on your school budget.  Or you can send your views to us at info@WeLoveMillburn.com.

We urge all members of our community to circulate this important Community Alert to your friends and neighbors. 

We Love Millburn

_________________________________________________________________

WeLoveMillburn is a non-profit, grassroots, informational organization made up of a complete cross section of involved residents. This mission is to help all residents be better informed about the issues and opportunities that affect the community. The goal of members: help make the community a better place to live. We do this in a positive spirit of informing one another about what is happening, what is not happening and what is possible. We are all neighbors and this is our town. Please visit www.WeLoveMillburn.com, review our reports and consider joining the organization or just sign up for the email newsletter at Info@WeLoveMillburn.comInfo@WeLoveMillburn.com the organization or just sign up for the email newsletter at Info@WeLoveMillburn.com

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Millburn/Short Hills

Millburn Recreation Accepting Memberships for Pool, Tennis and Golf

February 19, 2018

MILLBURN, NJ - The Millburn Township Recreation Department announced that it is accepting memberships for the township pool, tennis and golf facilities. The memberships are available to all Millburn Township residents and the applications are available online.

The membership application can be accessed at http://www.twp.millburn.nj.us/DocumentCenter/View/3258 or go ...

Millburn Police Investigate Theft by Nordstrom Employee

February 14, 2018

Press Release February 13, 2018

 

On February 6, 2018 Millburn Police Officer Royce stopped a 2009 Jaguar XKR as it exited the mall for having no front plate. The investigation led to the arrest of 50 year old Christopher Garibian of Morristown on an outstanding traffic warrant out of Morris Township. Mr. Garibian was placed under arrest, issued summonses, and released after posting ...

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast: Episode 12

On this week’s episode of AtlantiCast, decade of excellence makes headlines, as Atlantic Health’s place on Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For List leads off the newest episode of AtlantiCast. Also on this week’s show, check out the newest “hybrid” operating room at Morristown Medical Center and find out how Atlantic Health is helping local ...

AtlantiCast Medical Minute: Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center

On this episode of the AtlantiCast Medical Minute, we’ll take you inside the Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center, with the center’s director, Jason Lowenstein, MD.

Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1M7euCp86-c

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_6bc32732b6e5b46f0b03_f28fee57f494e6f4658c_10943684_896744083691504_4506070169799302056_n

Fri, February 23, 9:00 AM

The Cora Hartshorn Arboretum and Bird Sanctuary, Short Hills

Winter Break Camp at the Cora Hartshorn Arboretum ...

Education Green

Carousel_image_8429e76bd8adfbc48ca8_0dac551c96548b6313da_met_orchestra

Fri, February 23, 12:00 PM

Millburn Free Public Library, Millburn

Metropolitan Orchestra of NJ Duet at Millburn ...

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_4f8324cc0a175d48b73e_bbc4a05ee6841cf55043_martamcdowell-photo-by-marco-ricca

Sun, February 25, 2:00 PM

Greenwood Gardens, Short Hills

All the Presidents’ Gardens Talk & Book Signing ...

Home & Garden

Carousel_image_61e402c79011d14d92ba_b01211242c63812560cd_networking

Tue, February 27, 8:15 AM

Congregation Bnai Israel, Millburn

JBN Presents: Women's Networking in Millburn

Business & Finance

Own a Lakefront Townhouse from the Mid- $400s

February 22, 2018

OWN A LAKEFRONT TOWNHOME FROM THE MID-$400s

 

Mariner’s Pointe Offers Modern Townhomes with Deeded Boat Slips within

Commuting Distance of NYC

 

HOPATCONG, NJ – The opportunity to own a brand new townhome right on the shores of Lake Hopatcong is attracting buyers to Mariner’s Pointe, where homes priced from the mid $400s are moving ...

Millburn Township Announces NJLM Louis Bay 2nd Future Municipal Leaders Scholarship Competition

Millburn Township Mayor Cheryl H. Burstein is proud to announce the NJLM Louis Bay 2nd Future Municipal Leaders Scholarship Competition for high school juniors and seniors planning to continue their education after high school. Three state winners will receive a $1,000 scholarship and their essays will be featured in the New Jersey League of Municipalities magazine. We are inviting all Millburn ...

Paper Mill Playhouse Announces the World Premiere of 'Unmasked'

Paper Mill Playhouse (Mark S. Hoebee-Producing Artistic Director, Todd Schmidt-Managing Director), recipient of the 2016 Regional Theatre Tony Award, announced today the world premiere of UNMASKED, which will feature some of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most iconic work and the stories behind its creation, along with new music and memories from his extraordinary life and career, will open its ...