Board demands end to ‘scapegoating’

Township Committee plan to appoint members dismissed

By:Beth Kressel
   "Insulting, demeaning and damaging," said Lou Possemato, president of the Board of Education, in response to the Hillsborough Township Committee’s plan to research the possibility of an appointed rather than an elected Board of Education.
   Speaking on behalf of the school board at the July 21 board meeting, Mr. Possemato responded to several aspects of the July 8 Township Committee meeting, including the possibility of changing the school board’s configuration, and asked that the Township Committee stop "scapegoating the Board of Education" regarding the town’s tax increases.
   Other board members supported Mr. Possemato’s response to the July 8 meeting and the proposal to reconfigure the school board.
   "Changing to an appointed school board would take an apolitical board and make it terribly partisan," said board member Neil Hudes.
   One community member responded that he would like the township to explore the board’s reconfiguration.
   "Maybe it’s time, with budget increases, to explore the possibility of an appointed board," said John Klepich of Powelson Drive in response to Mr. Possemato’s speech.
   But Mr. Possemato also asserted that tax increases came from real need, not from frivolous spending. The school district’s state aid "has been flat over the past few years" and community members must shoulder additional taxes because of the lack of funds, he said.
   Two years ago, Hillsborough schools received 27 percent of their budget from the state, according to Superintendent for Business Thomas Venanzi. This year, only 20 percent of the school budget was funded through state aid.
   Mr. Possemato added that the largest tax increases came from the municipal government, not from the schools. In 2002, he said, 67.1 percent of property taxes were tagged for the school budget. That figure declined to 65.5 percent in 2003. The municipal government taxes increased from 12.97 percent to 15.68 percent during that same time, he said.
   The Board of Education president invited the Township Committee and any other interested community members, to attend the Board of Education meetings as the board works on finalizing its 2004-2005 budget in the spring.
   One community member liked this proposal.
   "One positive thing I heard tonight is that the board plans to be public in its budget talks," said Cindy Klepich, whose husband also spoke that evening, "A lower level of detail would be helpful. Twenty-lines detailing budget items are not helpful when trying to identify various areas to cut the budget."