Politics is local and we can have the most impact on our school boards

Your superintendent is the highest paid, most powerful public official in the municipality. Do you know his name?

Elected board members, although well intentioned are easily led by their paid employees; teachers & administrators.

Do you know what they're all doing? Well here in New Jersey they represent at least 60% of your property tax bill and budgets grow at an astounding compound rate each year.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My comments from the January 5 board meeting

I made these comments at the last board meeting. and actually got them all in except for item 11. The superintendent put his head in his hands, gave the board president a high sign and I was gaveled. Superintendent Vitta can't deal with pressure i.e. he has no balls.

1. I have a couple of comments and a quick question. Let me read them through and you can ignore me as you usually do or respond when I’m done.

2. First, I fully endorse Tucker Kelley’s comment regarding board minutes, which he made by at the last meeting. I believe accurate records are essential for decision-making and historical as well as legal reference.

3. For example, I notified the board secretary of an error in the November 3rd minutes. They refer to board approval of a June 10, 2010 resolution. However, neither of last June’s meetings was held on the 10th and since James twice discussed the resolution and received permission to issue a press release, it must be of importance and should be accurately recorded.

4. Also, the 2009-2010 annual report, which was accepted and submitted to the Department of Education, lists Frank Giarratano as board President. So as of now, the minutes of the 9-10 reorganization meeting document Friedberger as president but the annual report, lists Giarratano.

5. These examples may or may not cause problems but they do speak poorly of a board that so often accuses residents like Tucker and me of not having their facts straight.

6. On my blog, I’ve posted a proper analysis of the solar project based on information provided by James Verbist. The analysis clearly shows that the project will not provide the hoped for revenue streams in the first 5 years.

7. And unfortunately many, including this board assumed that high New Jersey SREC prices and implied returns would continue beyond the initial investment period. The economic reality is; legislation that imposed renewable energy standards, created the SREC market as well as the Alternative Payment penalty was designed to help the solar industry reach economies of scale and compete with fossil fuels.

8. That is to say, as New Jersey’s solar capacity increases, the need for incentives will decrease. This is reflected in the legislated 2.5% annual reductions in Solar Alternative Compliance Payments. SREC prices will logically follow suit and long-term profits are not going to happen.

9. But what’s done is done and the real problem, excessive cost still haunts this district. Over the past 5 years payroll rose 4% annually while tax ratable and student enrollments declined.

10. Also, the district just experienced 2 straight years of operating loss totaling $4 million and Trenton as well as local residents are saying they will no longer support your current cost structure.

11. To complicate matters, the salaries of our superintendent, business administrator and two building principals currently exceed the new superintendent salary cap for a district our size. The remaining four principals are dangerously close to that cap. The board needs a plan to deal with this issue before Vitta’s contract expires.

12. On November 17, Mike Friedberger mentioned potential conflicts preventing certain board members from contract negotiations. Has there been some resolution and who will represent the board in negotiations?

For those waiting on Verbist's press release, it won't happen. I'll report why in a few days and here will be more on accounting controls as well as the contract negotiation committee, Stay tuned.

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