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The Scotch Plains-Fanwood Times since 1959



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Commentary 'Dealing With the Fiscal Crisis'
Introduction - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - The Tools?, Abracadabra Academics

Videos: Corzine, Christie, Tax Reform

Contract Abuse, Editorial
2010mar18 - State School Aid Cuts
State Municipal Aid Cuts
Governor Order - Research Tools
Introduction Teachers Union, Westfield WEA A Financial Model County Budget Commentary Healthcare Governor Christie Budget Governor Christie No Tools? Education Industry, NJEA School Budget Voting and Hostility What About The Children Stop The Madness Pooling Healthcare Obama and Race to The Top Christie's Great War, "NJEA Uber Alles" Spending, Taxes, Debt and Priorities The State's Black Hole Freeholders Healthcare Fight for Education Reform Insurance Brokers Comment If Not the Governor, Who? How the Insurance Game Works Seldom Discussed Abuses Moral Courage When Fighting Corruption or Injustice High Time to End County Government Insurance Industry Predatory Pricing Prelude to ObamaCare Take Notice of Abuses in Our Midst

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Jul 1, 2010 Your space ship articles, "Enterprise" Planet Westfield should be sent to be published in national newspapers, with minor cleanup. 1277995070
Apr 11, 2010 Seems Teachers Union is getting Militant: According to the Bergen Record, representatives of the teachers' union in Bergen County included a "prayer" at the end of their letter asking for the governor to be "taken away," similar to actors and singers who died earlier this year. "Their pathetic attempt at humor is a disgrace and an embarrassment not only to the teachers, but to everyone who lives in this great state," Said GOP Alex DeCroce. "An apology is not sufficient for this reprehensible act. The authors of the letter should resign immediately and I urge the union members to call for such an action. This is no "joke" and cannot be dismissed as a poor attempt at being funny. They have far exceeded the line of civil discourse with this contemptible act." 1270985487
Apr 11, 2010 Westfield – The Cartel movie will appear in a series of one-night-only screenings throughout New Jersey. On April 19 the movie will be in Westfield at the Rialto Theatre, 250 East Broad Street, 7:30 p.m.. Tickets can be purchased online for $15 at These events will benefit the distribution of the film. The Washington DC Independent Film Festival awards The Cartel the 2010 Visionary Award, as well as the 2010 Audience Award for Best Documentary. The movie chronicles the crisis in American education and uses New Jersey as the investigative model. Among large industrialized countries, America ranks last in educational effectiveness – despite spending the most. New York talk shows are featuring Bob Bowdon, The Cartel's director, has been a New Jersey-based television producer, reporter, news anchor, and commentator for the past fifteen years. His varied career has seen him producing television shows; hosting news programs; conducting in-depth on-camera interviews; appearing in satirical news sketches for the Onion News Network; anchoring regional news broadcasts covering New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut; and shaping Bloomberg Television's World Financial Report. He is president of Bowdon Media, an Internet marketing firm, and holds degrees in mechanical engineering, engineering management, and film production from Purdue University, Stanford University, and New York University. The Cartel is his first film. More than three quarters of New Jersey's high schools have been warned that they may be placed on the state's list of failing schools. And the problem is not one of inadequate funding: Some of the worst schools receive-and squander-the most money. This costly, unconscionable failure forms the subject of The Cartel. 1270984297
Mar 31, 2010 I urge everyone to vote down the Westfield School Budget which raises property taxes 4% in a time when 1 out of 10 fellow New Jerseyans don't have a job and those that do are at best getting no raises and having to pay more for benefits. Meanwhile the Board of Ed gives the teachers 3.9% raises a year guaranteed for 3 years. Time to speak up folks and tell them NO! 1270047387
Mar 31, 2010 School Aid - On Monday, Gov. Christie announced that if teachers accept a voluntary pay freeze for one year, he would return the costs the state would save on Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes as a result of the freeze as additional state aid. "Based on the salaries of our certificated staff (Westfield teachers, administrators) the approximate savings would be $100,000. A savings or additional aid of any kind would be a help to the district. That amount of savings would help save approximately 1.5 positions in the budget," Bob Berman, Westfield School Business Administrator. 1270063571
Mar 31, 2010 Westfield Anonymous - I urge everyone to vote down the Westfield School Budget which raises property taxes 4% in a time when 1 out of 10 fellow New Jerseyans don't have a job and those that do are at best getting no raises and having to pay more for benefits. Meanwhile the Board of Ed gives the teachers 3.9% raises a year guaranteed for 3 years. Time to speak up folks and tell them NO! 1270048677
Mar 30, 2010 Past Years Town and School Budgets, click research tools above. 1269974159
Mar 30, 2010 Governor - More Aid Offered to Schools Whose Teachers Agree To Wage Freeze. After months of criticizing the teachers' union for refusing to sacrifice benefits as the state grapples with the biggest per-person deficit in the country, Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday in a press release offered school districts an incentive to force the teachers' hand. Gov. Christie said nearly one in 10 New Jerseyans are out of work, but teachers are getting up to 4 percent annual raises -- far higher than the rate of inflation. "I don't think it's wrong to say in these difficult times that they step up and make some sacrifice," Christie said. "We're not talking about forgoing raises forever. We're talking about forgoing raises for one year." The Governor said the offer won't cost the state any more money because the state would save on Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes as a result of the wage freezes. School districts who get the additional aid could set it aside to offset steep cuts in school aid next year. Teachers in several districts including in West Essex, Boonton, Montclair and Metuchen have voluntarily offered to freeze wages. Christie started off trying to balance his first budget since being elected in November with a $1 billion hole, the result of stimulus money that has run out. But if teachers agree to wage freezes, districts could see more than a 7 percent increase in aid. For example, a district that saves $1 million in salaries as a result of wage freezes would receive an extra $75,000 in state aid. "Maybe that helps to fund another teacher position or two, or a sports program that they might otherwise had to cut," Christie said. Shared sacrifice has been a theme for the governor since he took office two months ago and began proposing cuts. From a political perspective, the incentive gives Christie the opportunity to point to teachers who refuse to wage freezes as the reason a school district is getting less state money than it could. 1269965851
Mar 26, 2010 Trenton, NJ March 26, 2010 – The New Jersey Department of Education has reached a settlement nullifying a $556,290 severance payout to the former superintendent of the Keansburg School District, Barbara Trzeszkowski. The settlement, reached with Trzeszkwoski and the Keansburg Board of Education, concludes legal action initiated by the Office of the Attorney General in May 2008. The intended payment to Ms. Trzeszkowski came in addition to payouts for accrued vacation and sick time totaling over $184,000, and the collection of annual pension payments of $103,889. Under the terms of the settlement, the former superintendent has agreed to forego the entire severance payment in exchange for a nuisance payment of $50,000 by the Board of Education to offset a portion of the legal fees that were incurred in this action. Per the agreement, Ms. Trzeszkowski’s legal counsel has verified that the related legal fees have indeed exceeded this amount. Governor Chris Christie today responded to the agreement: “At a time when far fewer resources are available, spending reductions are demanded, and sacrifice is required of everyone, the ‘golden parachutes’ this case has come to embody are intolerable. Taxpayers in Keansburg and New Jerseyans generally were rightly outraged when news of this dubious ‘severance payment’ broke. While I am pleased that these legal proceedings have ended in a manner benefiting taxpayers and avoiding this flagrantly excessive payout, this particular case highlights the need for ongoing vigilance in reining in the excess, waste, and profligacy that wastes taxpayer dollars and fuels the highest-in-the-nation property taxes our people pay. My administration will continue to crack down on waste and abuse wherever it occurs by exercising my veto authority, demanding accountability from executive-branch departments and budgets, and pursuing legal action where appropriate.” Following reports of the intended payout, the State brought the suit against Ms. Trzeszkowski and the Keansburg Board of Education in May 2008 seeking a declaration that the intended “severance payment” should be judged as excessive, unreasonable and in violation of public policy, and thus declared null and void. Education Commissioner Bret Schundler said, “While school districts around the state cope with the reality of doing more with less while providing the essential educational resources New Jerseyans expect for our children, there is no room and no excuses for excess or waste. This case should serve as a deterrent against similar attempts in the future.” The intended “severance payment” came in addition to $170,137 Ms. Trzeszkowski received for unused sick days, $14,448 for unused vacation days, and $103,889 being received annually as a pension collection. The State’s suit did not attempt to recover payment stemming from accrued sick days or vacation pay, citing no legal recourse to attempt recovery of those payments. As with similar cases that have drawn the scorn of taxpayers and the public, this payout also serves as a reminder of the importance of the pension reform package signed into law this week and the savings it will be bring to local entities. Senate Bill 4 would cap the total payout allowed for accrued sick leave at $15,000, and limits vacation leave carry-over to only one year. “With the signing of Senate Bill 4 into law, the benefits provided to public employees for paid sick and vacation time will begin to be used for their intended purpose. These benefits are provided to public employees to provide security when illness strikes or vacation time with family, not to fashion their own miniature golden parachutes at retirement,” added Governor Christie. 1269634116
Mar 26, 2010 Trenton - Education Commissioner Bret Schundler today released the 2010 Comparative Spending Guide, an annual statistical report that details local school spending and ranks school districts in 14 spending categories. 1269633723
Mar 25, 2010 Bridgewater - As school boards prepare and present their budgets in these difficult times, we note that there are those places where teachers and school boards have constructively recognized the reality they confront. Understandably, no one is pleased with absorbing such large cuts in their education aid. But there are those districts that have chosen what is clearly the correct, reasonable and responsible path: forgoing raises to avert or at least minimize tax increases, layoffs of teachers and staff or program cuts. In contrast, there’s what’s happening in the Bridgewater-Raritan School district, as reported today in the Star-Ledger. The school board asked the teacher’s union to forgo $403,000 in tuition reimbursements and reduce its scheduled 4 percent raise – not eliminate it, just reduce it – to 2.5 percent. The answer from the union: Absolutely not. The union instead will force the school board to go forward with a large staff reduction. This is a stunning example of the will of the few – the leaders of a teacher's union; overriding the larger public interest. We find it remarkable that the local bargaining unit is so willing to sacrifice jobs of its own members, at a time when relatively little is being asked of them. Michael Drewniak, Governor Christie’s Press Secretary 1269553528
Mar 25, 2010 West Essex schools get wage freeze agreement from all employees By Nic Corbett/For The Star-Ledger March 25, 2010 -- Every person employed by the West Essex Regional School District has agreed to a wage freeze for the next school year to avert job losses and program cuts, the school board’s president announced Wednesday. The last of the district’s four unions, representing primarily teachers, voted 133-7 to forgo any raises, said Joyce Candido. “So we don’t have to lay anybody off,” Candido said. #8220;We’re very, very excited about this.” Most of the union contracts ended this year. But the unionized custodians, who had one year left in their contract, waived the 4-percent increases they had negotiated, Candido said. All non-union employees also agreed to the pay freeze. “We didn’t look at this as a ‘we versus they,’” said the president of the teachers’ union, Tony Janish. “It wasn’t like we got one upper hand. We looked at it as a win-win for both sides.” 1269516777
Mar 24, 2010 Westfield School District Budget Statement for 2010-2011 - Scotch Plains-Fanwood School District Budget Statement for 2010-2011 1269468793
Mar 24, 2010 Photos, Westfield Board of Education Public Meeting, March 23, 2010 1269455152
Mar 24, 2010 NJSBA Calls for School Wage Freeze, Extension of Millionaires’ Tax, Enactment of Benefits Reform — the New Jersey School Boards Association today called on Governor Christie, the state Legislature, and school employee unions to support five strategies that will help local school districts preserve education programs and navigate through unprecedented financial difficulty with as little damage as possible. Governor Christie has proposed changes in school district negotiations and management, designed to help school districts control costs and improve their operations. NJSBA supports many of these changes; the changes are not yet in place. They require legislation. We are advocating: Reopen Contracts to Freeze Wages, Extend Millionaires’ Tax for One Year, Enact S-3/A-2460: Employee Contributions to Health Coverage Immediate approval of one part of the proposed pension/health benefits reform package, S-3/A-2460, Address the Cost of Post-Retirement Medical Benefits, The pension and health benefit reform package moving through the Legislature would require new hires to contribute to post-retirement medical benefits when they retire. Suspend School Budget Elections for 2010. By April 3, districts must have their budgets finalized for placement on the school election ballot. School budgets are subject to a tax levy cap; These are greater controls than those placed on municipal and county budgets. It would be in the taxpayers’ interest to suspend the elections this year. 1269454223
Mar 23, 2010 Westfield School Superintendent Dolan approved a 3.9% annual salary increase to the teachers union days before knowing that aid would be cut. The private sector is suffering with reduced salaries and at best flat. The teachers union should expect the same. Collusion at its best? Sure looks like it. 1269359229
Mar 22, 2010 Westfield - The Board of Education has moved tomorrow's meeting location (Tuesday, March 23) to the Westfield High School Cafeteria B in anticipation of a larger than normal crowd due to budget discussions. The BOE meeting of Tuesday, March 30, will also be held in the Westfield High School Cafeteria B. Both meetings start at 8 pm. 1269266806
Mar 22, 2010 Scotch Plains-Fanwood - School budget presentations will be held as follows: Monday, April 5th: Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School auditorium, 7:30 pm Wednesday, April 7th: Evergreen School, 7:00 pm Thursday, April 8th: Coles School, 6:30 pm Thursday, April 8th: McGinn School, 7:00 pm Tuesday, April 13th: Terrill Middle School, 7:30 pm Tuesday, April 13th: Park Middle School, 7:30 pm Wednesday, April 14th: Brunner School, 7:00 pm Wednesday, April 14th: School One, 7:30 pm 1269254740
Mar 21, 2010 Question: If former Governor Corzine failed to bring change while in the majority party, how can Governor Christie in the minority party get the job done?" 1269187447
Mar 20, 2010 Regarding the 4,222,000 cut in the school budget: That's only $672 a student per year! Hummmm, or $56 a month. Seems to me if the "guys" in charge can't figure how to do that, maybe it's high time for some new "Guys". ...Just saying.... 1269126545
Mar 20, 2010 Posting error: Emails for comment also sent to: ; ; ; all State Senators and Assemblypersons in LD20, LD21 and LD22; Sen. Ray Lesniak, Asm. Joe Cryan and Asw. Quijano 1269091475
Mar 20, 2010 To Editor Paul Peyton (Westfield Leader), By way of this email, our representatives (copied to this memo) are requested to comment for publication next week on Governor Christie's State Aid numbers released this week for schools and for towns. Dear Sirs and Madams, your comments for our readers next week (receipt by Tuesday morning) are greatly appreciated. We are posting input from the public at Thank you. Horace Corbin, Publisher, The Westfield Leader Of immediate urgency are issues involving school budgets due on Monday and to be voted on by the public on April 20. In that the county also plays an important role in the overall budget puzzle and the impact on property taxpayers, we also ask county officials what adjustments they may be intending in their budget to respond to this taxpayer and local services crisis. Cc: ; ; ; "Asw. Nancy Munoz" ; ; "Assemblywoman Linda Stender, D., NJ Legislative District 22" ; ; "colleen mahr" ; ; "MARGARET DOLAN" ; "Sebastian Delia" ; ; "Al Mirabella" ; ; "Carmen Centuolo" ; "Jeanette Baubles" ; ; ; ; "Margaret Hayes" ; "ROBERT BERMAN" ; "'ANTHONY DELSORDI'" ; "christina ariemma" 1269090948
Mar 20, 2010 Why don't we secede from Union county? I would think the residents of Cranford/Garwood/Wesfield/Fanwood/Scotch Plains/Mountainside and Summit would warm up to the idea of creating a new county. Why should the tax base mentioned here pay more in taxes and get less benefit? These towns do not get represented fairly by the FREELOADERS of Union county. We need to get what we pay for. 1269086329
Mar 20, 2010 Westfield - Due to fiscal emergency, schools system calls for delay of April public vote on budget. Parent/Teacher Assoc. (WHSPTSO) note: A directive from Trenton on March 17 cut state aid to Westfield schools by 90 percent. This completely contradicted what the Commissioner of Education had told Boards of Education and Superintendents less than a week before. New Jersey's Constitution provides for public education for all. With this cut, the State will provide less than 1 percent of the cost of public education in Westfield. Following is the text of the message that Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Margaret Dolan, sent to Westfield's representatives in Trenton. Contact information for Westfield's representatives and the Governor are listed below the message: From Superintendent Dolan: Postpone April School Election The students in the public schools in Westfield deserve better. The taxpayers in Westfield deserve better. The state has given us 6 days to cut $4,222,000 from the cost of educating 6,275 students. The Governor and Commissioner have promised a tool kit to make these cuts. The tool kit is empty. The State Legislature will have almost 4 months to debate and make well- reasoned decisions about the Governor's proposed budget. All school districts have been directed to make cuts in 6 days not knowing what the legislature will change. It is imperative that the budget vote be rescheduled. Ballots have not been printed. Boards of Education will then be able to utilize the promised tools and make informed cuts to their budgets. The 6,275 students in public schools in Westfield deserve better. Margaret Dolan, Ed.D Superintendent Westfield Public Schools 908-789-4420 If you would like to contact your elected officials about the cut in state aid to our schools, you may reach them as follows: Chris Christie, Governor Office of the Governor PO Box 001 Trenton, NJ 08625 609-292-6000 email message at To email State Senator Kean, Assemblyman Bramnick, or Assemblywoman Munoz, go to: Tom Kean, Senate Minority Leader 425 North Ave. East, Suite C, Westfield, NJ 07090 Phone: (908) 232-3673 Jon M. Bramnick, Assemblyman and Republican Whip 251 North Ave. West, 2nd Floor, Westfield, NJ 07090 Phone: (908) 232-2073 Nancy F. Munoz, Assemblywoman 251 North Ave. West, 2nd Floor, Westfield, NJ 07090 Phone: (908) 232-2073 1269085227
Mar 19, 2010 If the brand new BOE contract with the teachers goes into effect, I feel sorry for the Town Council, should the BOE budget fail. That would leave the council with no choice but to cut school programs and increase class size. They should do whatever you have to do now to make sure that the just ratified teachers contract does not become binding. This should still be possible, since it was just ratified. 1269026977
Mar 19, 2010 How much does the teacher's union really "care" about the children? My wife and I both work full time jobs and make sacrifices for our children. Why can't teachers make a sacrfice as well? Is getting a guaranteed salary increase over the next 3 or 4 years a sacrifice? Where do they get the gall to accept these raises while the parents of the children they "care" so much about are not getting salary increases? They have the nerve to accept these raises while the parents of the children are in fact getting salaries cut and worse than that, losing their jobs. The situation is out of control. Unions were a good idea 70 or 100 years ago. They helped the little guy. Now they have completely lost sight of their initial purpose. The unions are not worried who they have to step on to get what they want. The union could care less about the children. If the teachers truly cared about the kids they teach they would stand up to the union and tell them to cut out the nonsense. 1269021251
Mar 19, 2010 Now that aid from the state is basically at zero, why doesn't Westfield privatize the schools. Maybe that way we could throw out the union. I am sure there are thousands of other teachers out there that are just as qualified as the current Westfield teachers that would fill vacat teaching spots should the union be kicked out of Westfield. While we're at it maybe we should start a petition to recall the members of the BOE since they were voted into office. New Jersey has favorable laws regarding recalling elected officials. 1269020862
Mar 19, 2010 Westfield School Budget $84,544,832: State Aid 2009-2010 [$4,670,514] 2010-2011 [$448,345] Aid Cut [-$4,222,169] 90.4%; - Town of Westfield [budget $40 million] loses 23.5% of its state aid (from 4,014,796 to 3,073,326; a reduction of $941,470. Most suburban towns in Union County face similar cuts. All School Boards must submit revised budgets by Monday, causing a real scramble about what to do. 1269018667
Mar 19, 2010 The media relentlessly attacks public employees in New Jersey. Okay, but there is an obvious attempt by the writers to cloud the underlying issues regarding taxation and government waste. Many of our elected officials deserve to lose their jobs this November. However, public employees are a "soft target" for the media - and public employees are largely defenseless. Stories of gold-plated benefits, take home cars and $100,000 pensions are fictional for most of us on the firing line. There is abuse that must be corrected - It's the bottom feeding, double dipping, patronage hacks appointed by the political machines, which have turned the government of this state into a national joke. The real tax woes: Somehow, politicians get voted back into office every damn November. The ridiculous system allows for fiefdoms: 565 municipalities, 21 county governments, 620 school districts, 700 authorities and commissions, 80 Assemblymen and 40 Senators. All these have needless layers of managers, directors, superintendents and administrators who make six-figure salaries with dream benefits and pensions. These political hacks are draining the system and not being held accountable for bankrupting the public employee pension systems. A decade ago, these systems were fully funded and solvent. The media should report the real culprits. Maybe then, the public will throw the rascals out. 1269017887
Mar 19, 2010 School districts such as Westfield actually have four unions; teachers, paraprofessionals, secretarial and administration. The state union, the NJEA, is in charge and the mediation rules overwhelm Boards of Education. The executives: Supers, Bus. Admins, etc have their separate group where contracts and the like are advised by the NJ School Boards Association. 1269017670

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PO Box 250, 251 North Ave. West, Westfield, NJ 07091
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