Taxes & Spending

The school board is famous in Hoboken for its incredibly wasteful spending. At nearly $25,000, we  spend the second-highest amount of money per student of any K-12 district in the state (behind Asbury Park), and almost twice the state average. What's worse, the board is not planning any meaningful budget cuts for the next fiscal year, beginning July 1, and is not planning any tax cut. The proposed $59.8 million budget is $400,000 higher than the proposed budget a year ago. And this year's $36.8 million tax levy--the amount of tax revenue raised from Hoboken property owners--is just $3,000 less than last year's. Real Results promises to cut more than $3,000 out of a $60 million budget.

How did we get to $60 million? Cuts don't get made because board members don't know how to say no. At the March 9 meeting, for example, the board managed to turn a day trip to Philadelphia for eight members of the high school track team to run a few five-minute-long relay races into a four-day, three-night stay in a nice hotel at a cost of up to $3,000. At the same meeting, the board also decided to give every 7th and 8th grader a laptop computer that they can take home. The cost for the first year: $225,000, with no provision made for hiring tech support and maintenance staff. Such laptop programs have no proven educational value and this one will surely become a boondoggle as the costs pile up year after year. Spending money makes you popular in some circles. But we won't run away from the tough decisions about how to spend your money.

Where could the cuts come from? Lots of places. The athletic budget is probably the most bloated. We're spending $857,000 this year on 18 high school teams and none in the middle-school grades. Madison, with a high school one third bigger than ours, is spending $805,000 on 57 teams, including a dozen in middle school. When it comes extra-curricular activities such as student council and yearbook, the price we pay for a 1,900-student district is absolutely exhorbitant. At $448,000, we're outspending the 9,200-student Bridgewater-Raritan district by $55,000. Nearby Secaucus, which has the same number of students as Hoboken, gets by on $297,000. And those districts certainly don't stint on student activities. Do you want to know where all our after-school-activity money goes? Well, so do we. If elected, we promise to find out how and why each dollar is spent and share that information with you in complete online financial reports.

Despite an audit that pointed to lots of waste, the transportation budget is going up again, to $1.2 million, in a mile-square district that buses only special-needs students on a daily basis. Some $3 million to $4 million could be saved if the estimated 200 out-of-town students who attend Hoboken schools illegally were sent back to their home districts. We're top heavy with bureaucrats--we have 91 students for every administrator; the state average is 159. Then there are the district's three union contracts--with the custodians, teachers and administrators--that are rife with outlandish and expensive perks. But when the custodians' contract was being negotiated early this year, the board got virtually no concessions and agreed to over-the-top extras like a $750 annual clothing allowance for each custodian. At a time of very low inflation, the custodians are getting a total 10.5 percentage-point pay raise over three years and will still pay almost nothing toward their health care. The new board will be negotiating the other two contracts and must reach deals that are fair to the taxpayers. 

We will...
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Examine every line of our $60 million budget--$25,000 per student--to ferret out wasted dollars so we can cut taxes and reallocate money to the classroom.

Negotiate upcoming contracts with the administrators' and teachers' unions that are fair to the taxpayers.

Re-register all students with the goal of returning to their home districts the roughly 200 out-of-town students illegally enrolled by their parents in our schools.

Rethink our athletic budget. We spend an enormous amount of money but offer very few sports in the high school and no sports in the middle school grades.