Although most towns are holding their school election on April 25, Linwood in Atlantic County is voting this Tuesday, March 14. That is because Linwood voted to switch from an appointed School Board to an Elected Board last November. What a waste of energy!
Taxes are too high because of bad state laws. Bad state laws can be changed only by state officials — A Governor and a majority of each house of the Legislature. NJ has 120 Legislators– 40 State Senators, and 80 State Assembly members. Getting rid of bad state laws means getting 41 votes in the Assembly, 21 votes in the State Senate, and the support of the Governor. In Trenton, they say, “41 plus 21, plus one to get anything done.”
Here are some of the bad NJ State laws that give us outrageously expensive property taxes, and students who still depend on Mom and Dad well into their thirties.
NJ State Law gives roughly two thirds of money collected from the state income tax to roughly 5% of school districts. Those “Abbott” districts including Camden, Bridgeton, and Pleasantville. Anyone familiar with Pleasantville or any of these school districts know that billions of dollars of massive state aid have done little or nothing to improve academic performance.
When Margate State Senator Steve Perskie and Democratic Governor Brendan Byrne rammed through NJ’s first 2% State Income Tax in 1976, they assured us that every dollar would be used to cut property taxes. Most of that money went to more public school and local government employees with higher salaries instead. Then, starting in 1985, roughly 2/3 of all NJ Income Tax Money (also known as the “Property Tax Relief Fund”) has been going to just 31 school districts. Jersey City and Hoboken also get that state income tax money, even though they have many luxury condos and upscale restaurants and clubs that pay peanuts in taxes.
NJ State Law forces each of the 103,000 public school teachers in NJ to pay more than $1,000 in dues each year to three unions, national, state, and county. That gives these unions more than $103 million each year–more than enough to bribe and bully almost every politician in the state.
NJ State Law forces every public school to use wasteful and expensive union work rules for even the most minor and routine repairs. We used to borrow money on Wall Street only to pay for new schools that would last for 50 years and which were quickly debt free. Now most public schools are heavily in debt because we now borrow money for routine roof and plumbing repairs and replacement.
NJ State Law allows all sorts of “victims” to bring all sorts of lawsuits for nothing but hurt feelings when they are “offended”. That same law also rewards lawyers who sue public schools over trivial incidents with huge fees paid for by taxpayers–even when they only recover peanuts for their clients.
NJ State Law makes it very easy to hire bad employees with good political and family connections–and almost impossible to fire them three years later when the people who hired them are voted out.
NJ State Law forces public schools to pay teachers and other employees more each year, even when most taxpayers are earning less. If you don’t think public school teachers are earning enough, just look at how many qualified applicants apply for every job opening.
NJ State Law forces students, teachers, administrators, and counselors to spend an enormous amount of time preparing students to take standardized tests, giving standardized tests, reviewing test results, while there is less time to learn important material.
The New Jersey State Pension Fund is broke. There are many reasons for this. First, teacher pensions are based on last 5 years of earnings, not how much is in the pension fund. NJ pension funds have been run as a Ponzi scheme for the past 30 years. Unions often negotiate pay scales that give low salaries until just before public school employees retire. Then they get big pay hikes to juice up their pensions. Because of this the pension funds were doomed even before Governor Christie Todd Whitman did more damage with reckless borrowing, insufficient state contributions, and giving a 9% hike in pension payouts with no increase in contributions to pay for them. Who knows how much in NJ pension funds were lost in “political” investments like the Revel Casino, and Atlantic City’s $600 million catastrophic debt. We are a few short years of a crisis that will end up with public school employees retiring with pennies on the dollar or obscene tax hikes to fully fund their pensions.
There is not a single thing any school board member, elected or otherwise, can do about any of these problems. However, there is a whole lot that our Governor and state legislators can do. So far, Republican candidate for Governor Jack Ciattarelli seems to be the only candidate for state office in the June 6 Primary election even talking about these issues. That’s why we invited him to speak at our yearly Washington-Lincoln Day Fundraiser at the Irish Pub last month. Hopefully, Ciattarelli will soon be joined by some others. Hopefully more voters will wake up before the June 6 Primary Elections.
Seth Grossman, Executive Director
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