I went to the Budget Meeting last night only to find out that they already submitted next year’s budget to the County for approval and that it is a done deal!
Despite the fact that they are raising taxes by $2 million, most of the board members did not know that the budget was already finalized. I and others in attendance were stunned that they did not know this. I was also irritated that the Public Comments were essentially useless. So, the average homeowner gets a $52 tax hike on top of the Twp’s $30 tax hike and our BOE did not know that it was a “done deal”..
I stood up to ask a few questions about cost reduction efforts and was told that aside from Health Clinic services, the BOE had a paving project completed by the Twp and bought their fuel from the Twp. They are also in a NJ Schools energy purchasing consortium. The energy purchasing may be a good idea, but I am going to OPRA that to make sure.
The Business Administrator could not offer specifics about costs for Vehicle Maintenance and grounds costs stating those were “spread out”.
I pointed out that they pay $2.2 million on Building Maintenance (not custodial maintenance), which is almost the same amount as what the Twp spends on Building Maintenance. I find this concerning for a couple of reasons:
1) The BOE has 4 times the number of buildings than the Twp, (25) yet spends the same as the Twp.
2) The Twp has half the number of buildings (not including the Library) as the BOE, yet spends the same as the BOE.
That begs the question “Who is overspending and who is under spending?
Based upon Mr. Kanka and others complaints about the conditions of school buildings it sounds like the BOE is under spending on Building Maintenance. Regardless, I advocated that the BOE should be looking at a Shared Service Agreement with the Twp on Building Maintenance and other areas. I was told that it was a good suggestion. Will they follow through?
Furthermore, building custodial maintenance and supplies are budgeted in the millions of dollars, as well.
The Department of Community Affairs will pay for a study to look at Shared Service opportunities between the Twp and the BOE. So, why are they not taking advantage of that opportunity?
If, of the combined $4.4 million that they spend on Building Maintenance, they could reduce expenses $1 million that would cut the Twp and the BOE tax hike by 25% each. And this is simply one item in each of their budgets.
To further illustrate what appears to be a lack of effort on the BOE for cost reductions were the questions about 10 years of purchasing practices for insurance. A veteran BOE member is asking questions about an item that costs us millions of dollars that he should have already known the answer. More disturbing was that he found out that the BOE has not been bidding this contract. Shame on the BOE for not knowing this and shame on the District for not bidding. Technically, the pratice is legal, but practically, it may be costing taxpayers more than it should.
After this discussion, several BOE members got hung up on a $50,000 budget item. I wanted to shout, “you are raising our taxes $2 million. Can you argue about that, please!”
Based upon the questions, the fight over $50,000 and the blank stares I got when I mentioned Shared Services, it became clear that the majority of the BOE Members are not adequately providing oversight of tax payer dollars.
If they go farther and look at custodial services, vehicle maintenance, cooperative buying for office supplies and Energy purchasing that could represent millions of dollars more in operating cost savings.
They need to put some elbow grease into reducing costs.