West Orange, NJ School funding fight

April 20, 2010 6:01:05 AM PDT
Governor Christie is insisting West Orange teacher take a 1-year pay freeze, while many residents say their taxes are too high.You will not see teachers in West Orange, New Jersey agree to the salary freeze.

When voters go to the polls Tuesday, they will be voting on a budget that calls for a hefty school tax increase.

Running for one of two open seats on the West Orange School Board, former teacher Adam Kraemer, is concerned that a proposed school budget calling for a nearly $500 tax increase is over the top.

"I'm really afraid that a tax increase of this magnitude will push a certain portion of our town, which is financially struggling, over the edge and out of their houses," said Kraemer.

After losing $6 million in state aid, West Orange now faces the possibility of losing 84 staff members, including 33 teachers and cuts to numerous programs.

On the eve of school budget votes across the state, Governor Chris Christie in a published editorial continued to urge teachers to take "a salary freeze for one year" as a way to share in the sacrifice of this economic crisis.

Syreeta Thompson, a 10-year teacher in neighboring East Orange says to the Governor, spend a day in a classroom.

"When you look at the budget cuts and things of that nature, we need every teacher, the non-tenured teachers as well as the seasoned teachers as well. (Do you feel that freeze will push them out) Oh absolutely," said Thompson.

Still, the governor is urging taxpayers to "vote against budgets that don't include shared sacrifice."

Many homeowners in West Orange are feeling powerless as they watch their property taxes go up and up.

"About $5,000 a year, that's about where they started, now our taxes are at about $27,000 a year," said homeowner Mark Meyerowitz.

Meyerowitz says he plans to say no to higher taxes.

"It's a vote that means all of the community of West Orange should be able to afford to live here," said Meyerowitz.