Letters to the editor

Teachers missing the point

In recent weeks, Moorestown’s Council, in a series of budget workshops, has been working diligently to trim the township budget by several million dollars. It has been painful to watch some township services and quality of life amenities come on the chopping block, but extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. For the most part, everyone seems to understand that belt-tightening is called for and most of us support the efforts of our Council members, who clearly don’t relish being the messengers in this sad scenario.

It was distressing, therefore, to witness the apparent disconnect at last Monday night’s meeting between well-documented economic issues and the several hundred teachers in the audience who were clamoring for Council to ignore the opinion of the citizenry, evidenced by the recent school budget defeat, that the school system needs to cinch its belt as well.

It seems disingenuous at best, piggish at worst, for anyone with a secure job and a reasonable income to insist on their “right” to across-the board-increases of 3–5 percent, regardless of merit, and 100-percent free health, vision, dental, prescription etc. coverage for themselves and their families.

In the private sector, salary freezes, salary reductions, uncompensated furloughs, layoffs and unemployment have been the reality for months. Most people who are fortunate enough to have health care pay dearly for it.

Council has proposed several reasonable areas where the school district can recapture funds without any impact on the programs or services offered to our students.

Teacher testimony Monday night regarding the quality of the schools does not reflect the current financial crisis. At some point, it must be acknowledged that everything has its value but that, no matter how “excellent” there are some things that are priced beyond our ability to pay for them.

The schools are emblematic of that situation.

Council will meet Monday, May 11, to address the budget again. One would hope that the judgment of these men, who have a wealth of experience in financial matters and have devoted hundreds of hours to studying Moorestown’s specific financial needs, will be respected and their efforts supported. There are no sacred cows in this picture — we are members of the same community and its problems as well as its perks must be shared by all.

Patricia Forbes White

Spring means another budget crisis

It’s spring, and in Moorestown that means another budget crisis. This year it’s gotten especially ridiculous. Apparently members of the Board of Education and Town Council are living on another planet. We’re suffering the worse economic period since the Great Depression and these people are basically telling the residents of Moorestown to eat cake. Workers are losing their jobs and companies are going out of business, and their response is to submit budgets that are, at best, preposterous.

Here’s an example of why we have budget problems. A friend’s daughter, a teacher with several years of experience, interviewed for a position at Moorestown. The principal who was conducting the interview looked around the room and said, “Obviously, we want for nothing.”

Flash to the BOE and Town Council: Cut the budget!

Stop worrying about your re-election and start making decisions that undoubtedly will not be popular, but are in the best interests of the community.

Lastly, I’d like to make a suggestion to those township employees who may lose their jobs. Take a look at the real estate tax assessments for the houses sold in the past year. I guarantee you’ll find the taxes listed for those houses significantly lower than what they should be. I found two houses that each sold last year for more than $1.6 million. Real estate taxes for each house was around $14,000 when in fact, the figures should have been at least double.

I doubt that our Town Council will do anything to make these homeowners, and probably many others, pay their fair share. I leave it up to those who are about to lose their jobs to shine a light on these tax cheaters. The money that can be collected may well pay your salaries.

During the past several months we held elections for the seats on the BOE and Town Council. Will these people merely take up space, or take up the issues that are seriously impacting our financial well being?

Frank Gilanelli

Council’s school budget ideas modest given current economic climate

Moorestown’s Town Council is facing a dilemma of historic proportions. Because of a severe economic downturn, the current budget, by law, must be reduced by at least three million dollars in order to limit the proposed tax increase to 16 percent, which is the maximum allowable amount (the 16 percent increase is a lot, but there doesn’t seem to be a reasonable alternative without eliminating or substantially reducing essential services). The budget, as it now stands, would result in a 36 percent tax increase.

Council has been diligently reviewing the Township budget and recently the school board budget as well. It should be noted that the school board budget accounts for 64 percent of Moorestown’s property taxes and the municipal budget a mere 14 percent of our property taxes.

Council conducted a number of public meetings to discuss with the residents how best to reduce the municipal portion of the tax, with the goal of removing two million dollars from the budget. Because of the recent defeat of the school board budget, council is conducting public meetings seeking to reduce the proposed sixty eight million eight hundred thousand dollars school board budget by slightly more than one million dollars.

A number of residents have voiced their opinions as to how to reduce the municipal tax portion of the budget. However, on May 4, when Council met to discuss the school tax portion of the budget, there was significant opposition from teachers for any reduction.

Council’s suggestions included reducing by 2 percent the scheduled raises to teachers, which now stands at 3–5 percent for the 2009–2010 school year. Council also suggested that all school board employees contribute 5 percent toward health insurance, which currently fully covers all medical, dental, optical and pharmaceutical. Currently these employees contribute nothing to their benefits package. Further ideas include a pay freeze for principals and administrative personnel.

Council’s ideas concerning the school budget are reasonable and necessary and in fact they’re rather modest considering the current economic crisis. These ideas should be quickly adopted so Council can focus completely on the more daunting challenge of reducing the municipal portion of the budget.

Jacquelyn C. Grayer