WEST ORANGE, NJ – After an often heated discussion about how to divide up the additional $1.5 million in state aid the West Orange Board of Education (WOBOE) received this month, the members of the board voted on Monday to give $500,000 of the aid back to the township’s taxpayers.
Voting in favor of giving back a third of the aid to the taxpayers was board president Sandra Mordecai, Laura Lab and Ron Charles. Board members Mark Robertson and Irv Schwarzbaum voted against this allocation of the aid because they felt it was not sufficient enough.
Robertson wanted to give back $1 million to the taxpayers and Schwarzbaum wanted to give back the entire $1.5 million.
“One hundred percent should go back to the taxpayers,” said Schwarzbaum. “We have a budget that is sufficient…We need to be fiscally prudent.”
Mordecai was among the three board members who argued that about a third of the money should to address pressing maintenance issues in the schools. The West Orange High School “Bubble,” which houses a weight room and aerobic equipment, was the facility most cited by the board members as long overdue for repairs.
“The Bubble is past its life expectancy,” said Lab. “It has gone down in the winter time. The Bubble needs to be fixed.”
Mordecai agreed with Lab, saying that the district has to ensure safety for its children.
“We’ve done patches to the Bubble, but we need to have a permanent solution,” she said.
Mordecai also suggested that part of the additional funds could be used to restore the World Language Supervisor position that was one of the positions cut due to the budget crunch this past year.
The board voted to revisit the aid allocation issue in December to see if additional monies can be given back to the taxpayers once it’s determined what monies will be needed for maintenance work and for possible additional staffing.