MAYOR BOLLWAGE CALLS UPON COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION TO INVESTIGATE OUTRAGEOUS ELIZABETH BOE SPENDING

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MAYOR BOLLWAGE CALLS UPON COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION TO INVESTIGATE OUTRAGEOUS ELIZABETH BOE SPENDING
 
Elizabeth, NJ - April 15, 2015 - Mayor J. Christian Bollwage called upon Department of Education Commissioner David Hespe to conduct a thorough  review of the Elizabeth Board of Education's (BOE) 2015 -2016 Budget, which includes a $7.5 million tax levy increase for the 2016 school year.  With his April 8, 2015 letter, the Mayor  also requested that a determination be made as to whether the Board can impose such a burden on residents as well as if this Budget submission is in compliance with the State Formula.
 
This latest financial plan developed by the Elizabeth Board of Education will result in a 15% tax levy increase from 2015 to 2016; equating to a $300 increase to the average taxpayer. Since 2008, there has been a 55% tax levy increase by the Elizabeth Board of Education. In addition to violating the 2% CAP, this most recent budget contains numerous questionable costs such as $3.2 million for the line item of stipend; $2.3 million for an additional 36 teachers; $2.1 million for the vacancy of  33 teachers and an available surplus of $5.2 million.  
 
"Proposing a tax levy increase of this magnitude implies that the Board has inadequate funds to sustain current operations and maintain services. However, where is the spending justification for hiring 69 more teachers at a cost of  $4.4 million when there is a stipend line item of $3.2 million?" said Mayor J. Christian Bollwage. "The only conclusion that can be reached is that the stipend funds have been earmarked for other purposes, including the payment of bonuses to reward Board supporters. If taxpayer dollars are being used as compensation for favors, assistance and cooperation, where are the resolutions needed to expend these public funds?"
 
The 2016 submission also contains a $6.5 million line item for discretionary spending. The Mayor also posed the question as to how such a large sum of money can be designated  under a vague and potentially all-encompassing term as discretionary.  
 
"Clearly there has to be a proposed use of these funds, as calculations to some extent, were involved in reaching the total," said Mayor J. Christian Bollwage. "If precise items were taken into consideration and are anticipated to be paid with these discretionary dollars, why are they not listed as specific line items within the budget?" 
 
The 2016 EBOE Budget also violates the State formula established for expenditures per student.  The actual cost per pupil is $20,000, which is the result of the total number of students served within the Elizabeth Public School System, 25,000, divided by the proposed District’s spending of $500 million. Manager salaries outlined within the Budget submission are also 20% to 50% higher than those of  Municipal Managers. 
 
"Although Board members are provided access to these funds, it certainly should not mean they can be spent carelessly, provide rationalization for  non-compliance to occur  or utilized to supplement personal incomes," said Mayor J. Christian Bollwage.