On BOE, teachers and ‘It’s for the children’

Iwent to East Brunswick Schools kindergarten-12th grade, attended college for four years and apartment hopped for seven. I bought a house here in East Brunswick in 1992 and did not buy with the intention of moving as soon as my children graduated high school.

I’m told many residents do exactly that. “The schools are very good, but the taxes are very high, so we’ll leave as soon as possible after the kids graduate.” To me, that’s not a ringing endorsement for our town.

One of my basic philosophies is, “It is what it is.” On the topic of the school budget, it’s almost impossible to know what “it” is. The opinions of “it” seem totally dependent upon which side you’re on. The sides appear to be the Board of Education and the teachers. I’ve heard their sides. I am on neither side, so I will share my views. They’re general but are backed by common sense.

I am tired of hearing that if you’re against the budget, you’re against the teachers. There’s more to it than that.

“It’s for the children.” What’s the first to go when the budget is rejected? Teachers, clubs, trips — all against the children. The 2011 budget has been reduced from 2010. A reduction doesn’t fully address the issues of past overspending.

I am convinced that there is extravagance and waste built in that will never be admitted. How does the state-of-the-art kitchen in the board building help the children? Why is the in-house mail delivered via school bus? Why was attending an emergency-management seminar on the potential H1N1 epidemic touted at back-to-school night when the teachers were asking parents to donate hand sanitizer?

As a homeowner, I know that utility costs will increase and there will be major repairs needed at some point. I know I will be responsible to pay for them. I will not call my neighbors and say, “I just bought a new car and renovated my kitchen. Now I need a new roof, so I need you each to give me $200 so I can pay for it.” This is essentially what the board does to the community on a regular basis.

I am tired of being told the tax increase will “only” be “x” dollars per house. Why did so many houses in Apple Ridge go back on the market after a year? Could it be a tax bill of $14,000-plus?

I’m absolutely appalled at how the results of the budget vote are treated by the board and the townshipwhen the vote is no. Budget defeated? Let’s call in and get the vote overturned. Budget defeated and have to cut $2 million? Let’s make sure every taxpayer knows that they saved $5 for the year and that the cut item will cost more when it comes around again.

I am ashamed that my town’s teachers are working without a contract. But why is that? I am disappointed that so many teachers came to the March 22 budget meeting wearing black. If that was a message to the board, did anyone consider the message to the public? How about the children? If my fourth-grade son was there and asked why you were all wearing black, what would you tell him? Maybe you should wear black to the union meetings and rainbow colors everywhere else.

I believe that state and federal requirements should be funded accordingly. I also believe that there has been so much misuse of funds, it should be no surprise that no funds are left. The state of New Jersey passed up a chance at federal aid a few months ago. Tax and spend has drained the well. There is nowhere left to dig a new one.

Save and economize … for the children.

Taryn Zelesny East Brunswick