From the NYT:
School budget talks have become so contentious in this township that 700 people recently packed a school board meeting — and 100 of them stayed more than nine hours, until 4 a.m.
At stake is Edison’s $204.8 million school budget for next year, which calls for increasing the local property tax levy by 8.6 percent. Even with such an increase — which required a waiver to the state’s 4 percent cap — Edison plans to lay off 92 teachers, cancel summer school, cut kindergarten to a half day and eliminate middle school athletic teams.
But first voters have to approve the budget, which is on the ballot Tuesday, as are budgets in most of New Jersey’s 600 school districts. Many school officials are expecting the toughest elections in years, as districts seek not only to raise property taxes but also to slash popular programs to offset the unusually large reductions in school aid proposed by Gov. Christopher J. Christie, who is trying to close an $11 billion state deficit.
The increases have angered taxpayers like Denise Bernacki, a retired project manager for a laboratory who has watched her property taxes rise to more than $10,000 a year during her 22 years in Edison. “We’re ready to move out of the state,” said Ms. Bernacki, a Republican who voted for Governor Christie. “I’ve had enough, and I think a lot of people feel that way.”
Teaneck, with 4,000 students and a $94.9 million budget, is proposing an increase of 10.2 percent to the tax levy, which works out, on average, to an extra $475 a year per homeowner. The district also plans to reduce its staff by 21 positions, buy fewer textbooks and supplies and postpone replacement of the roof at Teaneck High School.
The Randolph district, with 5,300 students, is calling for a 6.5 percent tax levy increase in an $81 million school budget. Owen M. Snyder, the superintendent, said that as state aid has decreased, homeowners have been forced to shoulder a larger share of the school budget because, in a township with few businesses, there is simply no one else to do it.
“What are you going to do, the kids need school,” said Mr. Szalay, 72, who plans to cut back on dinners out to help cover the tax increase. “And the schools are crowded and they need a lot of things and they don’t get them.”