Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Residents of Cherry Hill NJ say YES to higher taxes and (hopefully) better schools

There's almost nothing you can say except thank you from the bottom of our hearts. The Cherry Hill district was at a crossroads. We had gotten to the point where we had taken all the cuts we could without cutting into the heart of the district -- teachers, textbooks, programs. The people stepped up and showed us how much they care about the kids.
--Cherry Hill Interim Superintendent Timothy Brennan

Yo, here's a novel suggestion: How about some assurances that you are committed to making good use of this money?

School funding is an emotional issue and for good reason. I suspect that most folks are sensitive to the need for good schools and I am especially grateful that Cherry Hill public schools are among the state's finest. After paying off my 5-figure property tax bill might I suggest that they should be good.

jay lassiter :: Residents of Cherry Hill say YES to higher taxes and (hopefully) better schools
Residents of Cherry Hill have historically been willing to pony up for schools and yesterday was a continuation of this trend. Courier Post reports:
The district proposed an 11.9-cent tax rate increase for 2006-07 in order to raise $132.24 million in local property taxes to help fund a $155.77 million spending plan. For the owner of a house assessed at the township average of $139,600, that will mean paying $166 more than last year in school taxes.
For my partner and me this means an additional ~$33o dollars on top of what we already pay. And there's more (Courier Post)
The district also asked voters in a second ballot question to approve an additional 4.4-cent tax rate hike in order to keep $4 million worth of student programs and staff positions that didn't make it into the basic budget. That will raise the tax increase for the average homeowner by another $61. The separate question included funding for 31 teachers and instructors across disciplines; six counselors; an environmental science field trip program; and athletic and co-curricular activities at the middle schools and high schools.
In fairness I should cofess that I voted NO on both counts and I did so because I can't afford to pay more than the $13,000 (and change) that I already fork over annually in property taxes. It wasn't a question of values for me, it was basic economic reality. I fancy myself a liberal progressive who regards education as a big priority. The bitter irony is that I may spend my entire adult life advocating to transform New Jersey into a socialist workers paradise only to be priced out of Cherry Hill in retirement.

While waiting to cast his vote on the new electronic voting machines my neighbor Saul Wollman summed up pretty well what many Cherry Hill folk are thinking when he quipped "(we're) not getting any state aid, this district, because people think we're too rich even though there are a lot of people here who aren't rich at all. It's time somebody in Trenton did something except sit."

Yesterday's election saw only one of the incumbent school board members (Sharon Giaccio) re-elected. Joining Ms. Giaccio: rookies Robert Russo and Mark Trentacoste who replace outgoing members James Johnson and William Carter III, on the losing end along with Jeffrey Kirk, Lisa Farkas and Thomas DePaul. I hope the new school board lineup can commit themselves to a sustainable, real-world solution to funding school that doesn't criple the people who live here.

As an aside, all the married couples in my neighborhood had signs in their yard urging folks to vote YES on the ballot initiatives and YES for the incumbents. Meanwhile, all the gays and empty nesters had placards that read NO to both. Hardly surprising how the battle lines came down on this one, huh?


Anonymous said...

Don't you find, in retrospect, this statement:

"It wasn't a question of values for me, it was basic economic reality."

Just a bit ironic??

You are a "progressive." You believe in "better education." Why were you not willing to sacrifice a small amount of your wealth for others?

jay lassiter said...

because I can't afford it.
Because i am rolling change to buy gas.

nothing ironic about it, sister.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your post. Taxes in this town are simply too high. I am shocked that people will blindly throw money into a system they feel could be better without first carefully reviewing current expenditures. Funding positions such as math tutors does not make your educational plan elite. It demonstrates the failure of an already over paid teaching staff.