A Tale of Three N.J. School Budgets

Today, The Star Ledger profiles how three New Jersey school districts have responded to the Governor’s proposed five percent reduction of their total budgets.

Roselle Park stands to lose $1.4 million of its $30 million budget. They plan to cut middle school sports, clubs and 58 jobs. Property taxes will increase. There will be no wage freeze for teachers. The union told the school district,“Freezing salaries is not something that you can look at lightly. It has implications that affect people for many years. We’re considering everything.”

North Brunswick’s $4.1 million cut will mean the end of full-day Kindergarten, an increase class size by three students, and some job cuts. What about a pay freeze for teachers? At 4:30 on Friday the union agreed to a one-year pay freeze. As a result, full-day Kindergarten will be reinstated. Taxes will still increase.

Montclair is going half way. Only top earners and administrators will take a one-year pay freeze. In addition to cuts to some programs property taxes will increase.

Tomorrow, most New Jersey school districts will hold a vote on their budgets. The debate up to this point has been acrimonious and intense. The teachers’ unions are against the proposed state aid cut. And most districts have decided not to freeze teachers’ salaries.

President of the Garden State Coalition of School argues voters should look beyond teachers’ salaries before casting a vote. Gov. Christie advises residents reject budgets that don’t share in the sacrifice. He has accused the teachers’ unions of “using students like drug mules,”in their fight to stop budget cuts.

Montclair residents, unlike most New Jersey school districts, don’t get to vote on their school budget. They must accept the education board’s decision. And they don’t have much say about the board either.  Montclair’s school board is appointed by the mayor.