Year after year, Clinton Township voters reject the local school budget. Lacking faith in the Board of Education (BOE), voters know that voting No on the school budget means the Township’s auditor will review that budget — and disclose what is really in it, and how our tax dollars are really being spent on education. A No vote is not a vote against our schools — it’s a vote for disclosure and full transparency.
Last year, in a record turnout, the school budget was defeated by the biggest margin in recent history. Voters roundly rejected higher school taxes.
Under New Jersey law, when a school budget is defeated by voters, the Township Council reviews the rejected budget and either reinstates it or reduces the school tax levy. The BOE must make the tax cuts, but it can choose to cut its budget wherever it wishes.
Every year during the Council’s review process, the minority that wants to spend more money on schools shows up at Council meetings. These folks claim that no one really knows what the voters want. They demand that because they — the minority — have appeared at a meeting after the election, the Council has an obligation to over-ride the voters and listen to the minority instead.
When voters reject a school budget, it means one thing: Voters don’t want to pay higher taxes, and they want the school budget to be cut.
The Voice of Higher Taxes
Last year this minority had a leader and spokesperson: Maria Grant. In a May 12, 2010 presentation to the Clinton Township Council, Grant mocked the majority that voted against higher school taxes:
Grant called the huge voter turnout against the school budget “apathy,” and characterized her group as “the rebound from apathy.”
Fancy that: A record number of voters turn out and reject the budget by a record margin, and they are called apathetic and accused of a lack of particpation.
Next week, on April 27, 2011, Maria Grant wants that same majority — the majority that she has referred to as apathetic — to elect her to the Clinton Township board of education to represent them.
A Dishonest Campaign
In her campaign statements, Maria Grant promises to “protect the taxpayer’s money.” Grant claims to be “the voice of the community.”
But last year, at the April 28, 2010 Clinton Township Council meeting, and again at the May 12, 2010 meeting, Grant told the Council that she and her group, “Concerned Parents of the Clinton Township School District,” didn’t support the majority of voters who rejected the 2010 school budget. Grand and her group wanted a bigger school budget and higher taxes:
Grant didn’t say it once. She said it twice, at two different meetings. Grant does not support the will of the voters.
Grant then proceeded to advocate for the wishes of the minority. Grant told the Council to ignore the will of the voters — the real “voice of the community” — and to let the BOE keep the budget that voters turned down. Why? Because a select few that supported the budget sent many e-mails and showed up at Council meetings to get the budget reinstated:
Grant’s message was clear: Ignore the voters. Ignore the election. Listen to those who show up afterwards to demand higher school spending.
On her campaign flyer, Grant says she will “listen and represent our community’s views, concerns and needs.” But Maria Grant’s statements about listening and representating our community are not honest. She has made it clear repeatedly that she believes the only way to run our school district is to keep spending more tax dollars — no matter what the voters say.
Maria Grant believes there can be no more cuts to school budgets:
Maria Grant believes there is “no wiggle room” to accept the decision of the voters. We must keep spending more.
Give Back What the Voters Cut, Then Spend Even MORE!
But convincing the Council to reinstate the spending that voters rejected was not enough for Grant. At those same meetings, Grant advocated to give the BOE even more money than it had asked for in the actual budget.
In 2010, the NJ Department of Education announced its annual award of Extraordinary Aid to CTSD — $399,000. The BOE had already included zero aid in its budget. That is, the BOE did not expect to get any aid, but produced a budget it was confident about. The unneeded $399,000 would thus be returned to taxpayers to lower the tax levy.
Nonetheless, Grant asked the Council to let the BOE spend even more money instead of returning it all to taxpayers.
Maria Grant has made it clear that she believes that no amount of money is enough to run our schools.
Higher School Taxes: The Answer to Poor School Management
Before she demanded that the Township Council raise people’s school taxes, Grant could have turned to the BOE to demand better management. But Grant did not ask the Board of Education to improve its management methods. She did not ask the BOE to streamline and develop new ways to deliver education effectively at a lower cost.
Instead, Grant told the Council that “our district is different” because voters have rejected the school budget every year. Grant said, “It only would save the average family $3 per month…” to let the BOE keep throwing more money at its problems.
(Just a few years ago, the BOE was telling us that, “A higher school budget will cost you only the price of a pizza dinner every month…! Isn’t that great?!”)
Maria Grant’s dishonest campaign for school board reveals the extent to which a small minority of people will go to force everyone else to pay higher taxes, without addressing the real problem: Mismanagement of our schools by our school administration and our Board of Education. As a resident running a citizens group that insisted on higher taxes, Grant was not interested in the majority’s rejection of the school budget.
If she is elected to the Board of Education, Maria Grant has made it very clear she will not represent the majority. Grant does not believe in controlling the school budget.
You can re-elect the people who gave you the budget you reject every year — and you can elect Maria Grant, who last year led the charge to inrease the school budget, to raise school taxes, and to give the BOE more money than it even asked for.
Or, you can elect new BOE members who will bring transparency and better management to our schools, spend our money where it belongs — in the classroom — and who will do a better job without raising our school taxes.