Opportunity knocks – my take on the Edison audit

Here is a painless way to recapture dollars in the most efficient way. No layoffs, no cutoff of municipal services and no extra bonding will occur if you carry out the following recommendations. This is a win-win situation for the council and the administration as well as the taxpayers of Edison if you will consider the following.

The deposit of cash collected in 48 hours. We live by rules and so does the township even if they prove bothersome on occasion. This is a state rule and the auditor mentioned it. It should be adhered to.

Another recommendation of the auditor was that the same person should not be collecting, writing out deposits and depositing cash. Checks and balances are an important ingredient of audits. Considering that we have a good abundant work force in town hall, carrying out this recommendation in the departments mentioned in the audit should be an easy fix.

There is a need for a fixed assets. I disagree with the auditor who claims that the measure would not be cost-effective. I say that any information that would allow our elected officials to make better future capital improvements is well worth the effort.

Incidentally, township-owned land is included in fixed assets. We do have a six-year capital improvement plan in the budget. The problem is that it can not anticipate many of our needs. Take for example, our current need to deal with our antiquated sewer system. These needs should be anticipated as early as possible. Here again the state has recommended this measure and it should be implemented.

Lastly, the auditor recommended that the interfund loan balances be cleared by cash transfer where possible. This is too large a pot of cash to overlook. Last year, it was $14 million, and this year it was $15 million. This recommendation needs to be expedited as soon as possible and the council should be kept informed of progress regularly.

There is still time to act on the above items. A corrective action plan will be put forth 45 days from adoption of the resolution for the council to sign off on. The choice is yours. We the taxpayers will be watching.

Jane Tousman


New act addresses identity theft prevention

The information age economy has drastically changed our lives forever. Most of the changes have been great: shopping online, downloading tunes, getting information quickly and easily, etc. But the ease in acquiring information has also created one of our biggest problems: namely, identity theft.

On Jan. 1, 2006, the New Jersey Identity Theft Protection Act (the “Act”) took effect in order to address this major law enforcement issue. Several provisions of the Act make it mandatory for all business in New Jersey to take steps to safeguard the personal financial information of individual customers and employees.

The Act also contains a provision that allows individual consumers to request that credit reporting agencies place a security freeze on their credit reports so that the report can only be released with the prior written consent of the consumer.

Businesses must now safeguard their clients’ or customers’ personal and financial information in any electronic files or media containing an individual’s name linked to a Social Security number; a driver’s license number or state identification card number; or an account number, or a credit or debit card number in combination with any required security code, access code, or password.

Once the business no longer needs the personal financial information, it must securely destroy the records by “shredding, erasing, or otherwise modifying the personal information … to make it unreadable, indecipherable or non-reconstructable (sic) through generally available means.” This means that the business must do more than merely delete the information from its computer hard drive.

If a breach of security occurs and someone obtains unauthorized access to the data, the Act contains a disclosure requirement. The business must first report the breach of its security to the New Jersey State Police and then to the customer.

The Act contains provisions prohibiting the public display or other disclosure of an individual’s personal information. The Act also contains certain prohibitions against mailing correspondence to an individual with that person’s Social Security number unless the mailing is otherwise mandated by law.

Violation of the Act will subject the business to a suit under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. The New Jersey state attorney general could bring suit directly under this statute or an aggrieved person could bring a private cause of action. The statute provides for recovery of both treble damages and recovery of attorney’s fees by the aggrieved individual.

Art Peslak



Arts teaches students about what they can achieve

Every now and again, standardized testing in public schools alerts us to some problem in our educational system. Presented with declining test scores, educators and administrators must struggle with how to remedy these problems in the face of personnel, budgetary and time constraints. Frequently passed over in these times of educational crisis, real or perceived, is perhaps their most valuable asset for improving the minds of our children – the arts.

It is disturbing school curriculums are being changed in response to test scores to, in some cases, double the time students spend in core curriculum classes like math, language and science at the expense of arts classes. Sadly, doubling the length of an already challenging math class does not guarantee better test results and is just as likely to put many kids – already math-phobic – off math entirely.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if motivating students to do better in their core curriculum classes was as easy as having them pick up a saxophone or paintbrush, or recite some lines on stage? While it may fly in the face of reason for the mathematically minded, it does work. Regular participation in classes in the arts is proven to build confidence and exercise the logical thinking that students need to do well in math and in society.

At a time when teaching of the arts in public schools has been pushed to its limits, we should thank the professionals who continue to teach it against all odds and consider that students who participate in the arts are four times more likely to receive an academic award, four times more likely to participate in a math or science fair, and three times more likely to receive an award for attendance.

The College Entrance Examination Board continues to report that students of the arts consistently outperform their non-arts peers. In 2004, SAT-takers with course work/experience in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal portion of the test and 40 points higher on the math portion than students with no course work or experience in the arts. Students with music appreciation were 63 points higher on the verbal and 41 points higher on the math portion.

In many schools, where music and art have taken a back seat to other subjects, students are missing out on opportunities to learn about themselves – experiences of learning confidence and self-expression that last a lifetime. Where other subjects teach our children a lot about the world and little about where they fit into it, the arts teaches students about themselves and what they can achieve. If any classes come close to showing students how to dream, how to be creative and think “outside the box,” it is the arts.

The arts are our children’s culture. How is it we as parents, educators and administrators, honor and celebrate artistic genius in museums and on the concert stage; allow it to motivate, thrill and sadden us; and still permit it to be removed from our children’s educational experience? Is it a mistake to consider only math, science and language arts to be the “core curriculum” in public education, or do students need more? Too often, the term “electives” is taken to mean that elective classes are optional where the opposite is true.

Elective classes – especially those in the arts – provide rare opportunities for students to explore for themselves educational experiences that best fit their personality. What better preparation for life? And, what good fortune that experience in the arts can support other subjects, teach respect for cultures beyond our own and be such a positive emotional outlet.

If we don’t like our students’ performance on standardized tests, we would be wise to look past the thin indicator of test scores and instead focus on a broader picture. We should reject efforts to “unbalance” curricula as a means to attain higher test scores and ask ourselves: Do our children enjoy the confidence to approach topics aggressively? Do they apply themselves to subjects in school in a way that will “get the job done?” Do they want to excel? Do they enjoy the learning experience and express themselves by talking about it with you and other students? If we find ourselves answering no to questions like these, then perhaps it’s time to look to public education’s secret weapon – the arts. It’s proven to work.

Andy McDonough