By a member of the LAC, Lakewood, NJ
First I want to start off that I am not a board of education member, nor a township committee member. I am a member of the LAC, and am in close contact with some BOE members.
I have been watching this tiny tots debate very closely and have real issues how hypocritical some in our community have turned out to be. Does anyone think we can get a zero increase without sacrifices to all factions in Town? Does anyone think we can get a 10% decrease next year, without affecting some of our programs or services? Or do they think the cuts will come from places other than themselves? If we are going to get serious about tax relief, and we are, then there will be painful cuts.
Lakewood is comprised of 50% orthodox, 35% seniors, 15% minorities. The entire community for the past 2 years has been screaming bloody murder over the local tax rate rightfully so in my opinion, and the opinion of the vast majority of voters.
So we voted in, individuals both for the BOE (and soon the TWP) who ran on the platform to reduce our property taxes.
Now the question that comes to mind is how will they reduce the taxes?
I think we all agree that the first thing they needed to do is cut out all back room deals. Next, they need to purchase better, and get better pricing. Next they need to make government more efficient.
If anyone ever looked at the BOE, or TWP budget you will understand that doing these steps is only a start. The only way to stop the tax increase or to have a decrease is to look very hard at each program and make real cuts.
So, let’s deal with the BOE budget today;
The board has already eliminated about 35 teachers for the PS, and made overall changes to how money is spent. They gave no raises to all employees. They took a lot of heat on these issues. Yet these changes won’t even get a zero increase tax rate. Obviously, with the town make up, and the fact that we are at least 50% of the town this is going to have some sort of effect on us. We would hope that our elected officials would have the sense to only cut or reduce things that we can handle as a community and do it with their Daas Torah.
Now let’s begin to look at TT; there are three parts to tiny tots. One is 4 self contained classes, costing tax payers 1 million dollars. They are culturally diverse classes, and will be of the same make-up and teachers on the Linden Ave site. Most parents have already expressed their satisfaction and are enrolling in the new program. There are 50 inclusion children (inclusion is a child that needs a hour or two of speech or PT,OT a week), costing tax payers about 700k including their bussing . Many of these children are able to be serviced in regular play groups, and receive their therapies twice a week. Many children turned down by TT due to profit concerns, are forced to use this option. 4 years ago, before the TT idea, everyone sufficed with this arrangement. Lastly, there are about 50 privately paid children in TT. Their cost is offset by the owner of TT through the profits gained from the contract with the BOE.
The board of education received a 4 million dollar grant from the state for preschool. First they tried giving the entire program to tiny tots which would have allowed them to save 1.5 million or so off the local tax levy. That got struck down by the state. They tried cutting it in half, and that also got TURNED DOWN BY TT DUE TO PROFIT CONCERNS!
They have therefore created a program on a separate location, where all TT children would have the same or similar Morahs, would have the SAME curriculum, there would NOT be any other children on this campus if all the TT kids would join, and the 50 children would have free preschool. This would also save the local tax payer 1.5 million EACH year!
What we see now happening is some people allowed their emotions to rise and create a mess. Many of the ring leaders in this debate are those that the taxpayer suffers the most from. People who make huge profits from capitalizing on special needs children to milk the taxpayers for every dime they have. People who claim to have righteous motives, but whose real objective is to secure the yearly 20 million we all pay each year toward their programs.
We, as a community, stand to lose a lot more. Our elected officials need to see that the community really wants change and really want lower taxes. They will not make that effort to reduce things in town, if all they see is anything that slightly effects the frum, we scream and yell. You can’t just lower the tax rate. It will require some very difficult decisions. I think we as a community cannot afford to allow a few people with personal agendas to highjack our taxes.
Personally I think the BOE decision in regard to TT is a great step, it is similar for those that know to the BI-Y program in Brooklyn and the parents are very happy there. Government’s job is not to take care of every last person for everything that everyone needs. We live in a country that has a separation of church and state and this cost’s us a lot in our daily lives (tuition and so on).
All I am saying is we need to come together and show our officials that these people do not represent the Town. I spoke with Chesky Seitler who had this to say. “I am steadfast in my conviction that taxpayer money is not free. I will not allow any individual or entity, no matter how connected they are, to continue to bilk the Oilam in the name of Special needs. While I understand that I will be the target of vicious personal attacks, I am not doing this for myself but for the Tzibbur at large. This is something I have taken on myself and the Ribono She’ll Oilam has given me the fortitude and presence of mind to withstand any attempts at intimidation. I know many people would think I would give up, but the people who cry out that they can’t pay their groceries yet are FORCED to pay exorbitant amounts of money to satisfy the whims of a few, will never let me stop”.
If anyone would like more info they should please email their name and phone number to the LAC at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will call you.