Assembly approves big changes in schools, orders cost-cutting

In Uncategorized on May 30, 2008 at 1:23 pm

Assembly approves big changes in schools, orders cost-cutting
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Last updated: Tuesday May 20, 2008, EDT 9:29

New Jersey schools would see major changes — including a mandatory 10 percent cut in administrative costs for scores of districts — under legislation approved in the Assembly on Monday.

But whether any of the legislation will become law is uncertain. None of the three bills has been scheduled for a vote in the Senate.

The Assembly also voted to move the date of school-board elections to November from April. In the same bill, lawmakers eliminated the voters’ right to approve multimillion-dollar budgets.

“The fragmentation of our voting calendar has resulted in voting fatigue,” said Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts, D-Camden, seeking to explain New Jersey’s typical school-elections turnout of 15 percent.

He rejected critics’ arguments that a move to November — when voters are at the polls for general elections — would inject party politics into non-partisan school races. And he said that voters’ input on the annual spending plans was “part of a charade,” because municipal governments have the power to override their decision.

“In some cases, every single cent that [voters] cut can be reinstated,” Roberts said.

He pointed out that voters still would have to approve spending above a limit, and that decision could not be appealed.

Assemblyman Richard A. Merkt, R-Randolph, said he agreed with the change to November, but he argued unsuccessfully against taking away voters’ power.

“It’s fundamentally undemocratic,” Merkt said.

Senate President Richard J. Codey on Monday did not indicate when the measures might arrive in the Senate.

“These are important issues, particularly the matter of participation in school-board elections,” Codey said. “We’ll be giving these bills a thorough review when they come over to our house for consideration.”

The bills were designed to address New Jersey’s runaway property taxes, the highest in the country.

About 55 percent of homeowners’ local tax payments are channeled to school districts. In North Jersey, where the 2006 median tax bill was $7,169, that means $3,943 went to education.

Some lawmakers said some of the measures could harm smaller districts.

Assemblyman John E. Rooney, R-Northvale, said many in Bergen County could not afford a 10 percent reduction in administrative costs, because state law mandates a superintendent for each district and a principal for each building. Northvale alone would have to do without $80,000, he said.

“When you have a small school district of 500 [students] or less, the ratio of administrators to pupils is extremely high. It doesn’t make sense to do this ratio nonsense,” he said.”

The 10 percent reduction would be based on a complicated formula involving regional comparisons, per-pupil administrative expenses and a cost-of-living increase. By the 2011-12 school year, affected districts could spend no more than 90 percent of their 2008-09 administrative figure.

The third bill would eliminate the state Board of Education from hearing appeals in cases decided by the state education commissioner. Those appeals would go directly to the Appellate Division of state Superior Court.

Other areas of state government also are trying to reduce school costs.

Within weeks, the state Department of Education is set to approve a 205-page rulebook on how districts must design their budgets. The rules would empower executive county superintendents to override local budget expenditures they deem excessive; increase public review of proposed budgets; set policies on nepotism and pay-to-play; and encourage consolidation and shared services.

E-mail: younge@northjersey.com

  1. Hey Federated and HSAs:

    This memo advises you that if this bill passes your power will be DILUTED. Won’t be soon enough for me.

    Happy day!

    Now go get the nails done, get the tummy tucked, get the fanny pumped, get the botox injected, get the hair did.

  2. 8:36: what in the world are you talking about? This bill says nothing about Federated or individual HSAs, which, by the way, have no “power.” The state has no jurisdiction over an HSA (or, more accurately, no more jursidiction than they have over any charitable organization, which basically means processing tax returns).

  3. “set policies on nepotism”, this would certainly effect Ridgewood.

  4. OK, 4:54, now what are you talking about…what nepotism in Ridgewood’s schools? Can you back that up?

  5. The pols don’t want to reduce school spending. They want to be the ones who do the spending.

  6. 8:57pm

    Look at the new hire list, Secretary Ann Haner* Related to Staff Member.

    Board member’s daughter in Orchard.

    Two married teachers in the high school.

    Two married teachers, each in one of the middle schools.

    RHS principal wife is an aide in an elementary school.

  7. 12:39 you weren’t paying attention. It is the HSA’s that keep our incumbents incumbent. It is this organization, which is supposed to represents ALL parents, that only represents its insiders and factions. They are a principal reason why we cannot improve our school system. I think they are a very obnoxious group indeed and extremely harmful to education.

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