Resident angry about pay increases

Taxpayers in Edison should be angry about the reported pay increases for top members of the school administration. School taxes account for over half of the property taxes. The largest portion the school budget is for salaries and benefits. It appears that the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) underlies the reported pay increases.

The NJEA is the bargaining agent for every school district in the state, and is responsible for getting salaries and benefits for its members. The union benefits when union negotiators bargain higher wages, because the income of the union is dependent on the salaries and benefits it gets for its members. The NJEA has a role in the salary negotiations with the Board of Education in Edison. It is responsible for the current pay increases because it negotiated them. It may be recalled that the Board of Education has always failed to reduce any portion of the budget that involved the NJEA, such as job furloughs, wage freezes, or salary reductions.

It appears that the 2 percent raise in salary from $174,000 to $177,480 for John DiNunzio, acting superintendent of schools, and renewal of a contract for Dan Michaud, school district business administrator, who will receive a 2 percent increase, is an example of the power NJEA has over the Board of Education. In addition, Superintendent Carol Toth continues to collect her [annual] salary because she was let go by the school board.

Unfortunately, some school board and Township Council members do not have training or skills in collective bargaining, so that giving in to union demands is easier than the stress of negotiating with the union over money and benefits. Besides, there may be members of the Board of Education and Township Council that belong to NJEA and as a consequence would most likely support union demands.

At a time when taxpayers have been forced to take job furloughs, been laid off, had their wages frozen or reduced, the Board of Education still caters to NJEA by continuing to raise salaries. Salaries do not reflect the quality of teaching or administrative skills. These seems to be a compulsive need to always raise salaries because board members apparently believe that they have to give an increase every year. It appears that the fiscal problems are due to the Board of Education’s lack of expertise in negotiating contracts with the NJEA, which in the final analysis apparently controls the school budget. According to a Home News editorial Jan. 23, 2005, “the NJEA wants local control of finances, even if it ends up bankrupting towns and residents alike.” It is essential that residents take control of finances and labor negotiations, because the current Board of Education has demonstrated its ineptness. Members of the Township Council and Board of Education who belong to the NJEA should not have any role in school budgets, especially salaries and benefits, because they could profit financially from contract negotiations. Conflicts of interest should be explored and eliminated, Cuts could easily be made, for instance, by freezing salaries and benefits. Staff reductions and furloughs should be considered as a last resort.

The fiscal thoughtlessness evidenced by the Edison Board of Education can have a ripple effect because other towns might try to follow Edison’s example
Louise Riscalla