In a letter to the editor, West New York Board of Education Trustee Matthew Cheng explains why he voted no on shared services with the town, noting that the imbalance between the two entities is glaring.
First of all, I’d like to thank the Superintendent, the police and all of the passionate people who spoke.
I am proud to say that my daughter graduated Pre-K a few weeks ago and will be attending Kindergarden at #1 school in the Fall. Before I left to be here this evening, she said to me, Daddy, I want to say something.
I really miss my friends. I said, don’t worry, in a few weeks you’ll see them again. When I make decisions on this stage, I think about her and all of the other students who attend our district.
I’d like to explain why I voted no the shared service agreements with the Town of West New York.
As the Superintendent stated, these are a collective group of shared services and what was voted down, and what was the intention of the Board members who voted down these agreements was the transfer of $1.5 million from the Board of Education to the Town of West New York.
I am certainly not against the police or recreational activities for our children.
Let me explain how we got here.
Most of the revenue for our school district comes from the State and for the past few years, we have been flat funded. We have a $135 million budget of which local taxpayers contribute only $16 million.
While our expenses have gone up, our revenue has not. For more than a year, our teachers worked without a contract.
At last year’s budget meeting, the Business Administrator said there was no money for a contract that year and the next year. Teachers came and protested and eventually the Board and the Union agreed to a new contract.
This year, Trustees were told by the Business Administrator that the Board faced a $2 million dollar deficit.
I am on the Finance Committee and attended a meeting a week before the Budget hearing where various scenarios were contemplated to reduce the number of teachers and staff to compensate for this.
I asked about class sizes and was told that they would start to increase to the high 20’s to 30 in the Middle and High School. Today, we have less teachers, less aides and less staff than we did a year ago. We are spending less money per pupil than we did a year ago because of this.
When the Board asked the Town for help, the shared service agreements were modified so the Board would pay $50,000 less. This isn’t enough. Let me reiterate this point. These are shared services.
The Board gives the Town $1.5 and receives less than ten times that amount. These services and spaces should be shared in an equal way and the cost borne by both. We are in this together and the Board needs help.
By law, the Board can only increase taxes 2% each year while the Town has no such restriction.
Last meeting, I read a heartfelt letter from a student describing how she was inspired to be a Math teacher because of one of her teachers at Memorial High School.
That is how important teachers are. I want to hear more stories like this, not less. I want more teachers, not less. I want our students to have more supplies and textbooks, not less.
I want the Board to work together with the Town so these agreements are equal and fair to the our students.
Cheng is a West New York Board of Education Trustee
These opinions are my own and not those of the West New York Board of Education