I have come to know many teachers as a father of four public-school children and my involvement as a City Councilman. Bayonne teachers are caring individuals who are revered throughout New Jersey as the best in the state. These teachers have the children’s best interest in their hearts, volunteer their free time, and spend their own hard-earned money on educational items.
While I understand the need to watch the city’s finances, it is not fair to take away the financial expectations of these hardworking teachers. There are many questionable expenditures in the budget such as the allowance for a new Arts Academy, duplicated contracts, political patronage, and wide spread nepotism.
Why should the Board of Education and the School Board of Estimate begrudge the teachers the current schedule of raises? The Board of Ed wants to increase the number of steps for salary increases to top pay from 15 to 18 steps. The current rate of steps should be grandfathered to all existing teachers so that the increase would affect new hires only. I could understand if the budget included only bare-bones necessities, but I do not believe a stripped-down budget exists. I know the Board of Education states that Bayonne is the most underfunded city in the state, but an austerity plan should have been in effect for a long time so that teachers’ raises would not have to rely heavily on expected state or federal aid.
The School Board of Estimate, which includes Mayor Smith and Councilpersons Greaves and Czerwienski, were responsible for raising taxes an additional 2 percent for the school budget. That is in addition to an increase in municipal taxes. It is an outrage that the city received $30 million per year from the sale of land to the Port Authority of NY/NJ for the last four years and still raised our taxes each of those years. This was the worst deal in the history of Bayonne. The 235-acre land sale provides no tax ratables forever, and forever is a long, long time. The news doesn’t get any better for us tax payers as we are about to get an 8.5 percent increase in our water and sewer bills. The voters put these do-nothing, tax-raising politicians in office, and it’s time for a change.
On another note, I am very surprised that not one of our politicians expressed a favorable opinion on keeping the School of Nursing in Bayonne, where it has located for more than 100 years. I would love for the city to keep this great tradition right here in Bayonne. This is just another of the good things that Bayonne has had to offer that is being taken away.
In closing, I believe the Board of Education should go over its budgets, cut the patronage jobs, get rid of the unnecessary contracts, and give the teachers a fair, well-deserved contract. I want the teachers to know that I am in their corner and strongly support them.
GARY LA PELUSA, SR.
Former Third Ward Councilman