It’s been 13 days since Middletown voters turned down the township school budget and during this time Middletown’s mayor has attempted to take a page straight out of Governor Christie’s playbook.
With a press release and a personal letter directed at the MTEA and it teachers he issued an ultimatum, take a wage freeze or face further spending cuts to the school budget that was defeated on April 20th.
Scharfenberger’s letter that was published today in the Atlantic Highlands Herald and read aloud on radio station NJ101.5, took acceptation at being rebuffed by the teacher’s union stating, “… the MTEA did not even afford me the courtesy of a response. I find this extremely distressing…”
Really? What I find distressing is the fact that today, before meeting with representative of the Middletown Board of Education to discuss the pending school budget; Scharfenberger felt it necessary to fan the flames of discontent with needless rhetoric in an attempt, I suppose, to try and gain the upper hand during the review process of the budget.
It’s too bad that Scharfenberger thinks he needs to play politics by taking on the local teacher’s union in order deflect attention away from his own mishandling of the turf issue and the Township’s own $5+ million budget deficit.
At the very least, before opening his mouth and inserting his foot, he should give the process a chance to move forward positively without the taint of inflammatory rhetoric before the whole Township Committee has had a chance to review and make recommendations on how much money can or cannot be sliced from the school budget, because when he fails to cut a significant portion of the $3M from the school budget that he said could have been avoided only if the teacher’s had excepted a wage freeze, he will be exposed as the partisan hack politician that we all know that he is.
When you consider that the Township uses the gimmick of deferred taxes to help balance the township budget, Gerry can afford to cut an additional $3M from the school budget.
For those that don’t know what deferred taxes are a simple way to explain it is this, after each school budget is approved the township starts to collect the new school tax rate immediately before the old school budget has expired. This enables the township to use the revenue from the newly approved budget, which generally has a higher tax rate; the Township could be collecting the difference between the old and new tax rate for as much as 3-4 months and use it to offset the municipal tax rate. This money rightfully belongs to the Middletown Board of Education however they never receive it.
Currently, after some 20 years of practice close to $60M is owed to the school board and it looks as if it will never be repaid even though the line item grows every year and appears in township budget documents.
So Gerry can bluster all he wants about cutting the school budget if the teachers refuse a wage freeze but the bottom line is that the township relies on that money just as much as the kids in the school system do.