A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Dimly Lit Path

The superintendent and some of the board members of the Matawan Aberdeen Regional School District have been focusing strictly on spending cuts and teacher givebacks in their effort to create a balanced budget this year. Their argument has been that a 4% cap on property tax increases locks them in to deep spending cuts.

An online presentation of an overview of the Freehold Regional School District's 2010-2011 budget proposal says that state law permits waivers to the cap under circumstances of 1) increased enrollment, 2) increased health insurance costs, and 3) losses in recurring revenue, such as state aid. Rather than presenting a doomsday budget proposal that cuts dozens of teachers, outsources janitorial staff, and slashes resources and programs, Freehold's board is offering a plan that keeps its system functioning during a period when state aid is being reduced unreasonably and costs are increasing significantly.

The same prioritization of taxpayer protection over programs and resources by the Matawan Aberdeen Public Library's board of trustees has for years undercut future expansion of library facilities and its holdings. While our joint communities are roughly the same size as Neptune and probably a tad wealthier, the Neptune Public Library received 62% more revenue and spent twice as much as MAPL in 2007, according to the 2009 New Jersey Municipal Data Book.  You will also note that Neptune's board of trustees emphasizes its independence from the local municipality (and posts all of its meeting minutes online, btw).

Unfortunately, our local government officials and their appointees feel they must be ever mindful of angry taxpayers as they frame the issues at hand. But no one knows if drastic cuts this year will make things right in the end. Last year, our two governments reclaimed monies from the library to provide taxpayer relief and this year could be the same scenario. Chances are we are only in the early stages of a terrible cycle of cuts that will eventually decimate not only our cherished institutions of learning and knowledge but even some of our basic services. We need to let our local leaders know that we want them to find creative solutions to their financial challenges and thus prioritize the spiritual welfare and cultural development of our two communities. We want them to reframe their perspective on the problem and reconsider the options, because what they have done so far and what they propose to do are leading us down a dimly lit path.


  1. Here's an article on raising taxes beyond the cap. It's not as straightforward as you think.

    I'm also waiting to hear your proposal. Do you not have any suggestions for cuts? Freehold wants to increase spending during a deep recession and raise property taxes over 8%. Is that your plan?

  2. The Superintendent's budget proposal is a misnomer. It is a political ad. I see no budget.

  3. Still deflecting? :)

    It's pretty easy to read the superintendent's proposal. Here's where we were last year. Here's where costs are up and revenues are down. Here's where I propose to cut costs and raise taxes.

    So, take last year's budget, toss in the above, and, presto, you have the proposal for this year's budget.

  4. Pat I searched all over that thing too. The powerpoint was a list of the superintendent's proposed changes, not what was being spent on school books or anything. And certainly nothing in the way of program descriptions. It's like a big Advertisement that talks about the items on Sale, but not the rest of possible merchandise. I figured it must've gone along with an actual handout and the slides were a talking points walk-through? I could not tell. Maybe you had to be there to 'get it', in a Patty Hearst kind of way.

  5. So what you're saying, Aberdeener, is that it isn't a budget but I could make it a budget if I only tried?

  6. No, I'm saying you use last year's budget as a baseline and then factor Dr. O'Malley's proposed changes. The presentation highlights the changes to the budget. If you want to know specifically how much was spent on salaries and the like, this is the process.

  7. O'Malley has made his position the most important part of the story. Not everyone has a ready copy of the budget and few if any will bother to gather all the materials on their kitchen table, do the required calculations to see what he's talking about, AND THEN attempt to counter his budget with one of their own. It just won't happen, Aberdeener. He claims to have posted a budget, but he hasn't. You've said as much.

    Frankly, I'm not dodging your questions. I just don't think it matters much what questions you ask at this point. The board is in an awful mess because it has burned all its bridges with the teachers, the ones you are asking to accept cuts in benefits and positions.

    When the teachers strike and you in return let dozens of teachers go and outsource all the janitors, your board meetings will soon look like the angry mob storming the castle in Beauty and the Beast, complete with various garden implements and torches. You'll be very popular with parents.

  8. There's a link to the 2009-10 school budget on the district's home page.

    And, yes, your are dodging my questions. :)

    If you feel we should raise taxes 10% to avoid cuts, why don't you just say so?