The Hoboken taxpayer is about to get whacked. We have an $11 million hole in the city budget left from earlier this year. The crisis on Wall Street and the real estate slowdown are hitting the city¹s tax base. And St. Mary’s Hospital will probably fail before long, leaving the city with millions in bonds to pay off. So what is the school board planning to do on Tuesday?
Approve more sweetheart contracts with its unions as payback for all their help during the campaign.
Here are some questions for the board members who negotiated these
contracts: When you agreed to give the teachers a 5.7 percent cost-of-living raise in each of the next three years, did you realize that the cost of living is forecast to rise by only 3.5 percent-4 percent over the next year? Did you bother to check online to see that the statewide average for contracts settled this year is only 4.5 percent? Do you even care that the state mandates a 4 percent cap on city and school budgets? With the contracts making up 70 percent of the budget, what people and programs do you plan to cut to stay under that cap?
The board says the money for these raises is in the budget. True, they¹re part of the $56 million budget approved in April. But this is six months later and there¹s no guarantee that all of this money will come in. Trenton, in a crisis of its own, threatens to chop state aid to towns such as Hoboken. Towns and school boards across the state are preparing for the fiscal storm by reining in spending. It would be irresponsible for our board to not do the same thing.
At a minimum, the raises must be kept below 4 percent. That might save only a few hundred thousand dollars this year, but outlandish raises one year increase the salary base in future years, meaning that future raises and pension payouts will cost us that much more.
More importantly, employees must start paying more toward their health care. From what I have been told by a board member, the board expected a 23 percent increase in health-care costs this year, yet it still isn’t requiring employees to pay anything toward their monthly premiums. Instead of seeing costs jump 23 percent, the board could actually cut its annual health-care bill by adopting plans that many companies use: Employees pay the first $500 of their annual medical expenses, after a free annual check-up, and the board pays everything after that. To cover the $500, the board cuts every employee a check for $500 each year. The savings will be dramatic because so many employees will decide to keep the $500 and skip unnecessary doctor visits.
So please tell any board members you know that Hoboken can¹t afford these contracts. Tell them to go back to the drawing board. Tell them that the $25,000 per student we¹re already spending is enough. And come to the meeting at 7 p.m. and let them know that they represent the taxpayers and not the employees.