Dear Lakewood residents,
Let me introduce myself. I’m a thirty-year-old lifelong Lakewood resident. I’m boruch Hashem married with five children, and two of them are in local mosdos. I also own two homes in Lakewood. Together, I pay approximately $12,000 a year in property taxes. I learn at Beth Medrash Govoha and also run a seasonal business here in Lakewood. Boruch Hashem, none of my children need the services of SCHI, the former Tiny Tots program, therapy or tutoring.
As you are all aware, there are upcoming Board of Ed elections and the town is swirling with different candidates and various platforms. Without getting into details, the two sides are as follows. On one side, we have Mr. Seitler, Mr. Zlatkin and Mr. Fink, current Board of Ed members who were put in last election with a promise to the community to lower our property taxes, and the candidates who associate themselves with them. On the other side, you have the old members, like Mr. Ostreicher, and the other candidates who are associated with him and the Igud Hamosdos.
As the election approaches, Mr. Seitler, Mr. Zlatkin and Mr. Fink are touting their success for what they did with last year’s budget, which featured no increase, and their proposal for the new decreased budget, which will lower the average homeowner’s taxes by $200. All that, they say, was accomplished without cutting any services to the community. Based on this, most sane people would definitely vote for the new candidates who are associated with these Board of Ed members.
However, as with everything that sounds too good to be true, one must verify what one is told before believing it. Thus, I went out to do just that, and what I found out will surprise you. These new Board of Ed members didn’t do this without cutting services as they say. What they did do was simply reject special children who wanted to go to SCHI. (They claimed that they added 18 children, but that is not an honest number, as ten of them were in SCHI already, in the preschool, the year before, and they took them in the next year for the regular program, so it was really only eight children, and they don’t tell us how many were rejected.) They also closed down Tiny Tots, a program for children who need therapy. In addition, they stopped paying for therapy for children who attended Ready Set Grow and cut funding for tutoring in local mosdos for children who are falling behind.
How do I know this is true, you’ll ask me, if these Board of Ed members say that it is not?
The answer is simple: Verify it the way I did. Pick up the phone and call the people I called and they will tell you the same thing. I spoke to local rabbonim, principles, school administrators and tutors from local mosdos. They all said the same thing: funding for crucial services was cut and it is a disaster. The children, I was told by person after person, are suffering immensely.
Even if it’s true, you might argue, why should we pay for these special children who need to go to SCHI and for children who need tutoring and therapy? While we feel terrible for them, why should the community pay for these services?
The answer is simple: It’s the same reason you pay for health insurance, life insurance, renter’s insurance, or fire insurance. Even if you don’t need it, and even if you don’t end up using it, you pay for it in case you need it. The same applies here. Boruch Hashem you don’t need SCHI, tutoring or therapy, but in case you do, SCHI and the other services will be there for you.
The math is quite simple as well. If you cut funding for the aforementioned programs – as the Board members have done – the savings to the taxpayer pale in comparison to the havoc being wreaked to countless families.
Imagine that, chas veshalom, you have a special child and the Board of Ed rejects your child’s application to SCHI. Do you know how much that will cost you per year? Try $70,000 a year. And if your child needs tutoring or therapy, that will cost you close to $100 or more per hour. Would you rather pay $200 or more a year in property taxes or pay $70,000 a year to SCHI or $100 or more per hour for tutoring or therapy?
Before jumping on this ever-popular bandwagon of lowering taxes, think about it like this and then decide for whom to vote.
A Lakewood resident who cares
P.S. This letter is not meant as an endorsement of Mr. Ostreicher and the candidates associated with him, as these “old” members did nothing to lower our taxes at all. Likewise, it is not meant to criticize Mr. Seitler, Mr. Zlatkin and Mr. Fink, as they have worked diligently and put forth great effort to make cuts in other areas of the school budget and lower taxes. The problem is, as the old saying goes, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” That is, we mustn’t cut funds for crucial and vital services while we endeavor to bring spending under control. These “new” members must own up to that. It might be the easiest way to lower the budget, but it is clearly not the most prudent.
So who should you vote for? I don’t know. Perhaps there is an independent candidate you wish to grant your vote to. Either way, I just want to give you an honest picture and allow you to decide.