Let’s Ask The Voters
Smith said he envisions the creation of countywide districts as a referendum on the 2007 ballot. Voters would be asked to approve the creation of an administrative school district that would handle purchasing, transportation, human resources, curriculum.Smith offers no proof that consolidating school districts by county would save taxpayers money. Any “range of tax savings” from county school consolidation printed on ballots would be made up with no basis in fact.
The question would also give a range of the tax savings people could expect.
Expert after expert testified before Smith’s committee that county school consolidation would not bring about meaningful cost reductions and might well increase costs and property taxes.
Frank Belluscio, a spokesman for the School Boards Association, said yesterday school district consolidation has to be explored "on a case-by-case basis."As we have shown many times, New Jersey’s own experience with large centralized schools districts undermines Smith’s premise that meaningful cost savings can be achieved with his plan. The 31 Abbott school districts already have the advantages cited by Smith for county school consolidation – from centralized administration to transportation. Yet, the 31 Abbott school districts spend an average of 30 percent more per student as compared to the rest of the state. Let Smith and company prove their theory in the Abbott school districts to the benefit of everyone in the state.
We want to make the legislators aware of the land mine that they need to remove if they are serious about making school district consolidation a property tax reform strategy -- namely, school consolidation will increase property taxes in many places," Belluscio said.
And by all means let’s ask for the consent of the governed. Let’s put it to a vote and ask whether or not people want to continue with the current arrangement with 56 percent of school property tax relief allocated to Abbott districts with just 22 percent of the state’s student population.
Let voters know funding parity with the wealthiest schools districts was achieved by the Abbott school districts in 1998 and now exceeds that goal by hundreds of millions each year. Let’s ask voters if they wish to continue these massive subsidies to the Abbots which have enabled these districts to spend 30% to 50% more per student than the rest of the state while producing failing schools and students.
Let’s ask the voters, but let’s give them the facts before they cast their ballots.