Clinton Township school board member Mark Kaplan says he doesn’t know what tax relief means. That’s how bad the management of our schools is.
Last July, Governor Christie sent $247,310 of tax relief that Kaplan and the board should have immediately given back to taxpayers. Education Commissioner Chistopher Cerf sent the school board a July 12, 2011 memo with the definition of tax relief:
“The additional State aid included in this year’s budget provides your district with a unique opportunity to reduce property tax burdens by lowering your local property tax levies for this fiscal year or the next. Using this aid to lower taxes is an important step towards new and effective management of our schools that focuses on improved student achievement, rather than increased spending. I urge you to join our reform initiative by applying these newly-allocated funds to alleviate your district’s taxes this fiscal year.“ [emphasis added]
“Lowering your local property tax levies”
It means reducing property tax bills, not keeping them flat.
“Rather than increasing spending”
It means the purpose of the $247,310 was not to spend it. Yet Kaplan and the board have increased spending this year — dramatically.
Kaplan and the board ignored the commissioner. And then Kaplan and board president Jim Dincuff hid from board members a memo from the mayor and council urging them to immediately use the funds to lower taxes.
Tax Relief: It’s for reducing the tax levy
The board must reduce the tax levy by $247,310 plus the additional state aid for school choice, or well over a million dollars. School business adminsitrator Anthony Del Sordi and superintendent Kevin Carroll admitted that the aid received for “school choice” is profit to the district.
“Even with the additional students, additional overhead costs will be minimal because the district will not hire more staff and will use existing space and resources.”
— Hunterdon Democrat, quoting school business administrator Anthony Del Sordi
[UPDATE: The Hunterdon Democract has notified ExMayor.com that it erred in its attribution of the above statement. The Democrat now attributes it to superintendent Kevin Carroll.]
“Even with [school choice] costs taken into consideration, the net will be over half a million dollars — and will reduce the tax burden on Clinton Township citizens.”
— Superintendent Kevin Caroll, CTSD wiki, January 17, 2012
So where is the reduction in the tax levy?
In the proposed school budget, there is no reduction in the tax levy. But the meaning of “tax relief” is clear — and so are statements by school officials themselves.
By the board’s own estimates, the school tax levy must be cut by more than a million dollars using funds provided for that purpose. And the board must stop spending more money. As Commissioner Cerf states, the concommitant challenge to the board is “new and effective management of our schools that focuses on improved student achievement, rather than increased spending.”
The BOE’s answer to Cerf: More bad management and higher spending.
Failing to grasp this challenge to improve management, Mark Kaplan and the board pretend they don’t know what “tax relief” means.
School board eliminates budget elections — and runs out of control
What’s perfectly clear is that the board has eliminated school budget elections and is now beyond the reach of voters.
At a recent school board meeting, former BOE member Grace Hoefig supported the elimation of school budget elections, and said if the board doesn’t do a good job, in November we can “vote the bums out.” But being able to vote out three of nine members each year accomplishes little.
Meanwhile, the board has started a new kind of public relations campaign — loaded, online “surveys” designed without any expert assistance — to create the impression that the board’s decisions are based on public opinion. It used a recent survey about moving school elections to November to justify eliminating school budget elections — but that effort was exposed as a manipulation. (In that case, it turned out BOE members had never seen the survey results they cited to support their action.)
Unaccountable to voters any more, the board has resorted to issuing false resolutions to communicate better, to limiting public input to three minutes, and to calling the police to shut down critics.
Mark Kaplan: “You know, this is all semantics. I don’t know what people mean when they say ‘tax relief.'”
Unless you speak up, Kaplan and the board of education will pick your pocket, spend your tax relief, then announce that you support higher spending.