If the school budget is voted down, hopefully the board and super will understand what we’re really angry about.
The union contract.
We don’t want middle school sports to go.
We don’t want 50 kids in a third grade class.
The point is, we feel that we are being boxed into a corner where we have to accept those things because of the main source of costs. The union contract.
Here’s the thing. I love teachers as much as the next person. I think they should be treated fairly and professionally and receive respect from the community.
If you remember about 20 years ago, being a teacher was not prestigious. They made nothing. Their colleges were often derided as second-rate (see Trenton State College pre College of New Jersey or Lock Haven State University). Teachers often needed to work in the summer doing something else from selling ice cream down the shore to home improvements to landscaping to make ends meet.
Thankfully, those days are over. Being a teacher is now much more respected. I’m not aware of the necessity of summer work for the teachers I know. After the first few years they are pretty well set for a middle-class standard of living.
The problem now is that teachers are now leap-frogging the rest of us. That’s why we’re getting angry and resentful. Many of us here in Cranford haven’t had a meaningful salary increase since 2007 or 2008. Small business sales are down 10 to 30 percent depending on who you ask. A lot of us are still on unemployment. There are a lot of for sale signs in town.
Having a $500 property tax increase (when you factor in the schools, the town and the county) is already just too much when most of us are paying over 8 grand.
A union contract that had a 12 percent increase in the past three years and now looking another 12 percent increase in the next four when everybody else’s income is essentially flat? That will get the blood boiling of many.
So what if we do vote no?
My prediction is that the Town Council will want a property tax neutral solution. Mr. Carfagno and Dr. Carrick will complain and moan about having to be so draconian, but that their hands were forced. They will probably cut a mix of things that we really value to warn us against doing this again, but will make a necessary cut or two in other areas…holding some back for future budget cuts which will be likely.
Either we get revenge cuts now or even more later. I am preparing to vote no.
Regardless of where you stand, remember to vote tomorrow. But if you are going to vote No, please, please really remember.