"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance

 and a people who mean to be their own governors

 must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Democrats Looking To Play 21 For Big Payoff

Democrats continue to push for municipal and school district consolidations despite any evidence that significant cost savings or property tax relief would result.

Experts brought in by Democrats to testify before the Joint Committee on Government Consolidation and Shared Services failed to bolster the consolidation theory, but that hasn’t dampened the Democrats' enthusiasm.

Marc Holzer, a public affairs school dean at Rutgers-Newark, estimated government consolidation could save taxpayers 3 percent to 5 percent a year, but didn't detail how that savings would be reached. "The savings are hard to document," he said.

Ernest Reock, a retired Rutgers University professor said, “It appears that there are some potential cost savings [1.85 percent] that could be made through the consolidation of school districts, especially in administrative costs," Reock said. "Whether this is large enough to justify the turmoil and disruption involved is open to some serious question."

John Yinger, a Syracuse University professor, told legislators he analyzed 24 New York school consolidations and found taxpayers saved only when small schools merge. For instance, he said two 300-student schools could save 24 percent by combining, but two 3,000-student schools would save no money.
Despite this expert testimony, Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex), co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Government Consolidation and Shared Services, is moving full steam ahead with the plan to consolidate New Jersey's 616 districts into 21 county school districts. After the committee hearing Smith said “he foresees countywide districts saving as much as $1.6 billion annually.”

"There are two benchmarks for successful regionalization," said Mike Yaple, a New Jersey School Board Association spokesman. "One, voters need to provide their approval and nothing should be foisted on them by Trenton. Two, we need studies to demonstrate the economic and educational benefits. What we have today is speculation."
Actually, we don’t have just speculation. The 31 Abbott school districts already have all the of the advantages cited by the champions of county school consolidation – “school administration and business matters such as human resources, salary negotiations, purchasing, transportation, and curriculum decisions handled from a central office”. Each of the 31 Abbott districts also has another advantage consolidated county school districts could never have – they are geographically compact.

So how has the economies of scale and central control theory worked out right here in the Garden State? The 31 Abbott school districts spend an average of 30 percent more per student as compared to the rest of the state and just about every school in these districts is failing in student achievement. Then there’s the more than $6 billion for school construction the Abbotts blew with little to show for it. Is this the model Democrats want the rest of the state to emulate? Apparently the answer is yes.

For example, taken as a total, Somerset County school districts are already much less costly and more efficient than the Newark school district on every measure. Newark’s average cost per student is 39 percent higher than Somerset County’s and the city’s administrative costs are 65 percent greater. Do Democrats actually expect us to believe merging 616 local school districts into 21 county districts will produce savings? The 31 large and centrally controlled districts prove otherwise.

"Our system is the most wasteful and inefficient in the country," Smith said. "We have to make some pretty significant changes in the way we deliver education."
That’s the big problem. Democrats aren’t willing to admit where the “waste and inefficiencies” are occurring in New Jersey’s system. The state’s Abbott schools are the definition of wasteful and inefficient – spending more than any other schools, not just in the state, but in the entire country, to achieve pathetic results.

The Abbotts are gobbling up 56 percent of school property tax relief while accounting for just 22 percent of the state’s student population. State income tax revenue, funds that may only be used for property tax relief, has increased 61 percent since 2003. Yet, property tax relief has not increased for all but the Abbotts and a few other special cases.

Democrats know these facts and are looking to keep the gravy train rolling under the pretext of “property tax reform.” They’ve tapped out state taxes so it’s on to local governments they don’t control and the big jackpot – property tax revenue. Just think what the politicians and their buddies could do with control of 21 consolidated county school districts and $20 billion in property taxes. Of course, that's just it, Democrats don't want you to think.


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