3 Lakewood BOE Hopefuls: No School Tax Increase

lac -boe candidates meet seniors - CopyThree of the five challengers in Tuesday’s school board elections are running together on one platform: no additional taxes, as reported on TLS. In a year of crippling state aid cuts and a proposed school budget that raises the tax rate by almost 11 percent, these conservative newcomers are calling for no increase at all —something that hasn’t happened in as long as current administrators can remember. “Our primary goal right away is to make sure the budget that ends up happening will have a zero-dollar increase,” said Yechezkel Seitler, 31, an online entrepreneur who is part of the group that also includes Carl Fink and Isaac Zlatkin.

Making it happen would be more likely than ever if they get the votes, however, since three of the board’s seven seats are up for grabs (two incumbents, Alan Gonter and Meir Neumann, are not running). And it would almost certainly mean layoffs, salary freezes and bigger classrooms, they acknowledge.

But it would also mean more transparent spending — with every contract going out for an open bid — as well as less spending in general. The three have suggested more teacher contributions into health benefits and accepting bids from newer less expensive companies on such contracts as busing, for example. Currently teachers pay nothing into the state health insurance plan, which is set to cost taxpayers another $2 million this year.

“It seems that while many other districts are considering deep cuts, Lakewood is not going that route and that is something I intend to change,” said Zlatkin, 30, an eighth-grade math teacher at a private school.

Tracey Tift, the only incumbent running for the three-year term, agreed the budget was bloated. It was he who recommended a hiring freeze, which the board adopted, Tift said.

“We need to tighten our belts and think about how and where we spend the money,” said the 42-year-old corrections officer.

But parents have this year complained repeatedly about not enough resources going to the public schools, and some have suggested it is because most of the board members have children only in the private schools. Three of the five challengers this year — Fink, Seitler and Zlatkin — do not have children in the public school system. Yisrael Friedman, another challenger, could not be reached for comment.

“I don’t think the administration cares about the kids, really,” said challenger Morris Wilder, 61, a bus driver with two grandchildren in the public schools.

Wilder pointed to textbooks shortages, leaking roofs and mold in the buildings.

Seitler countered that Orthodox Jewish residents, which constitute virtually all the private school parents, make up the township’s majority of homeowners and, therefore, are paying the bulk of the property taxes for public schools.

Still, Fink, 60, a senior citizen who is semi-retired and on the township Planning Board, said: “We really need to mend fences with the minorities,” who comprise most of the public school parents.

In the end, a voter-approved budget this year doesn’t seem likely, since one hasn’t passed in four straight years and the current proposed tax increase is almost three times that of last year’s. School officials blame the 10.65-percent tax rate hike largely on the state-mandated rise in insurance costs and private school tuition for the disabled as well as a $1.2 million drop in state aid. Robert Finger, the district’s business administrator, has warned that a failed budget could mean teacher layoffs. APP/TLS

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13 COMMENTS

  1. To Mr. ha ha,

    That is a “$1.2 million drop in state aid” not the earlier falsehood put out there was a 5 mil cut.

    That amount can easily be made up by freezing raises and having union workers contribute to their health benefits like the rest of the working public.

    VOTE NO ON THIS OUTRAGEOUS PROPOSED BUDGET

    It will mean a 5% increase in your property taxes, on top of the proposed increase proposed by the county

  2. Look at the budget and you will see it was only 1 million. It took the APP to get it straight, since they go to the source an don’t take their numbers from an outside contractor or board members. There is no 5 million dollar cut. The cut was 1.2 million!! There was an accounting game that made it look like 5 million to sucker everyone in. It is easy to cut 1.2 million, that is the amount included in the budget for the salary raise for the teacher’s union. If we don’t give a raise, presto! you saved the money. Without going into all the details, another milion can be cut with administrative layoffs. Many positions are useless and serve no purpose. (there is no tenure on admin jobs). Opening bids can save untold millions. There are many other options, but I would rather not discuss in this forum, but you are welcome to come to the BOE meetings and see for yourself how we can cut 25 million over 3 years.

  3. Will they put their $$ where their mouths are and promise not to run for re-election if they cannot deliver on the zero dollar increase budget?

  4. The teachers should accept a salary freeze (they are getting raises) and start contributing to their pension and medical at least something. If not, reject the budget and lets start firing em!!!!!!

  5. I need Taft to explain to me why she voted for the new proposed school budget? . It’s time for the people on the BOE to be accountable for their actions starting from the top

  6. start from the top, slash the board related expenses like attorney fees, cut administrators and then demand pay freeze from union. Starting with the teachers just makes it too political for real change. ask Obama

  7. Of course Wannabe. Everything should be fair game, all expenses. We should slash attorney fees, promotional fliers, everything.
    It is just that the pay raises, zero contributions to health and pension benefits, is so not in touch with reality, that it is glaring as to where savings can be found.

  8. We slash, we cut, we layoff, we don’t make repairs, The puplic school kids are the ONLY ones that suffer. But on one says anything about the 7 million in busing that would be a great place to start SLASHING $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$………..

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