Look at taxes through lens of life, says BOE member

BOE member Dr. Karen Garrison noticed approximately at $3,000 increase over a decade, and estimated it could be close to $4,000 between kindergarten and high school graduation of a student in the district

Board of education member Karen Garrison brought up an interesting topic during the “new business” portion of the Sept. 24 board of education meeting – tax increases.

Garrison said she was thinking about taxes and noticed in her experience the taxes have gone up roughly $3,000 over the last 10 years. If you take into consideration a child being in school from kindergarten through 12th grade, that could equal close to a $4,000 tax increase over the 13-year school career of a child.

Her point is simple – if the board is truly interested in children, it should notice the things that happen in a family’s home as well. The decisions they make when raising taxes could affect a child’s home life.

“If we’re really interested in children, there are all kinds of emotional things that go on in a family’s home when expenses go up,” Garrison said. “Sometimes that means parents are upset and anxious, which is normal. Maybe they cut back on things they want to do, maybe it’s just Friday night pizza doesn’t happen. Maybe they can’t take dance lessons because they don’t have money for that because taxes have gone up. That affects kids.”

She referenced an article in Money Magazine that listed two towns in New Jersey that were named to the best places to live in the country. Garrison spoke about Piscataway, one of the towns, which cut its taxes by 12.8 percent while building a $32 million community center.

“I challenge board members to keep in mind, when we’re making decisions, school-related decisions that do affect children, that we try to go towards either no increase or a (decrease) in our taxes. I don’t mean give up important programs, but if there’s some way we can make it better for children, not just in school but out of school in their home lives, that’s something we can put on the agenda to keep in mind,” she concluded.

In other news:

  • Superintendent of Schools Joseph Bollendorf said a few words about the passing of Marie Proko, a former teacher at Chestnut Ridge Middle School.

“I knew Marie personally. Wonderful family, she was a wonderful teacher. They were a very involved family in Washington Township, her husband Pete was incredibly involved in our Parks and Rec basketball program and gave much time to that. We lost him some years ago. They’re leaving behind their son Pete, who’s an awesome young man. I wanted to personalize it a little bit because she’s somebody who’s dedicated her life and family to the township and she’ll be sorely missed.” he said.

Proko passed on Sept. 22. She was 64 years old.

  • Teachers and administrators from Bells Elementary School gave a presentation about how they use mindfulness in the classroom. Students were awarded certificates for their participation in the “Building Better People” program.
  • The board approved two trips for the DECA club – one to allow approximately 100 students to travel to Harrah’s Casino in Atlantic City on March 2 through 4 to participate in the state conference. The other allows approximately 20 students to travel to Nashville, Tenn., on April 29 through May 3 for the international competition.
  • The board approved the following retirements: Sandra Paredes and Leslie Mitcham.
  • The board approved the following resignations: Kellie Alexander-Sklar and Dawn Trout.
  • The board approved the following hires: Lisa Alice Houck as special education assistant 1:1 at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School and David S. Nelson as a specialized instructional assistant at Bells Elementary School.
  • Resident Stacey Mulligan brought up the possibility of having a “town hall” style meeting where conversation and questions could be encouraged. She acknowledged the conversations could be lengthy but questioned if there was a way to have something similar to the coffee chats that Washington Township High School Principal Jonathan Strout has. Board member Ginny Murphy responded saying this is something that has come up in conversation in the past and has been a board goal for several years. Murphy believes it is something that can be revisited.
  • The next board of education work session is scheduled for Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Eileen Abbott Central Administration Building. This meeting is open to the public.