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Tax Protesters Seek End To Extra-Curriculars, School-Funded Sports

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Al De Old, a former VHS teacher, called for a freeze on discretionary spending.

Eighteen people, including several who have already addressed budget matters at recent Town Council meetings, came to Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting to appeal for cuts to Verona’s school budget. Among the ideas they put forward were an end to spending on extra-curricular activities, school sports, the school Web site and Mandarin, as well as larger class sizes.

The budget was not formally on the agenda at the meeting, having been approved by Verona voters in April by a margin of 1130 to 1048. But when the meeting was opened for public discussion, the budget was the only topic of discussion. The board handed out a 48-page booklet of facts about the school budget, which reprised much of the material that was given out ahead of the budget vote this spring. And board President John Quattrocchi disclosed that he had met privately last week with Susan Montanile and Elizabeth Knoop, who have been among the leaders of the tax protest movement, to review school budget procedures.  Montanile and Knoop, longtime residents of Verona, both took the microphone during the public discussion session and said that it was the first time that they had attended a Board of Education meeting.

Board members repeatedly directed the audience to the fact book, available at the BOE’s office, to emphasize that they have been containing costs for a long time. Quattrocchi noted, in response to a call for a freeze on discretionary spending, that the current board and its predecessors had cut this category by 30% over the past decade.  He also pointed out that the budget approved for the 2010-2011 school year, which cut staffing by 5 1/2 positions, was actually slightly less than the 2009-2010 budget. After Bojana Lezniki, a 22-year resident who was also attending her first BOE meeting called for cutbacks in school funding for sports, Quattrocchi noted that freshman sports at VHS had already been eliminated under the current budget and that parent organizations now raise more than $150,000 in funds to support sports and extra-curricular activities.

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But Quattrocchi was quick to dispel any notion that the next school budget could provide cuts large enough to reduce property taxes by $1,000 per household, which some of the residents who are questioning Verona’s taxes are seeking. He noted that, to meet that goal, the BOE would need to cut $5 million from the budget, which would mean laying off 100 of Verona’s 180 teachers.

Tuesday night’s meeting will be available on VTV, the town’s public access television channel, soon. VTV is broadcast on Comcast channel 35 and FIOS channel 24. The next Board of Education meeting is Tuesday, September 14 at 8 p.m.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]

3 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t recall hearing anyone request for a reduction of $1000 per household. The main points were to eliminate tax increases which this year resulted from a 1.3 million gap in state aid and which will occur again next year if the school budget is set at the 2% proposed cap. The request is to strive for at least a flat budget next year similar to what the town is doing.

  2. I have lived in Verona most of my life. When my husband and I were going to purchase a home this past year, I insisted on staying in Verona because of the school system. I am appalled that anyone would suggest we should have larger class sizes in order to save a few dollars on our tax bills. We were hit hard enough this year by budget cuts to our school system because of our precious governor (whose children are in private school and unaffected by the cuts). Query – are any of the 18 protesters parents of school-age children? Did any of the protesters come to the BOE meetings when the cuts were made this past Spring? I was there – fighting for my kids. I would be enraged if the BOE considered any further cuts. Leave our schools alone!

  3. The $1,000 cut was not brought up at this meeting but it has been raised in other venues, which is likely why John Quattrocchi spelled out at Tuesday’s meeting what it would mean to education in Verona. There will be many suggestions raised in and around BOE meetings in the coming months. It is important to understand their feasibility and impact. It is also important to understand how much Board members have done over the past 10 years to contain Verona’s costs, even as Trenton added to them. The Board’s fact book makes for good reading.

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