Proposed Hopewell Valley school tax hike is too great
I retired from Hopewell Valley Regional Board of Education in December 2017 after serving for 9 years. I concentrated exclusively on district finances and served on the finance committee, primarily as chair, throughout my entire tenure on the board. I have been credited by the superintendent of schools and board president as playing a key role in improving the district’s financial health.
On March 18, I attended a meeting where the board of education approved a tentative budget that included a 5.27-percent general fund tax levy increase. I was not surprised that Adam Sawicki opposed the excessive spending increase, since Mr. Sawicki was always among the most conscientious members of the board.
It would serve others well to heed the advice of their most senior board member. I appreciated his comment that the tax increase could most harshly impact community members on a fixed income.
When I was on the board, I often reminded the administration and board that the majority of residents in our community have no children in the schools, therefore it is important to balance the needs in the district with those of the taxpayers. Yet when the superintendent presented the proposed budget priorities, the list of four included maintaining all programs, services, staffing and budget for “an uncertain future,” with no mention of the taxpayer or fiscal accountability. Financial responsibility must also be a priority, as it had been in the past.
I am aware that the teachers have an expired contract and while I have no access to HVRSD internal numbers, I believe that the board can settle by providing a reasonable increase to the union without imposing a 5.27-percent general fund increase.
Finally, before I left the board, I asked my family and friends to vote in favor of $36 million in referendum spending with my personal promise that it was a fiscally responsible choice as evidenced by our conservative budget spending. The superintendent and all other board members provided the same assurance.
It is dishonest to collect $36 million in referendum money and then add general fund tax spending equivalent to the increase of the previous 4 years combined.
At the passage of that budget, board president Alyce Murray claimed that the board of education would continue working to improve the budget, since it will not be finalized until May. I implore and challenge the board to find an appropriate balance.
Township wants input on open-space plan
Among our greatest assets in Hopewell Township are our beautiful open spaces and our opportunities for active recreation, like sports fields and tennis courts. We love this community and its abundance of places for children and adults to get outside and play.
A subcommittee of volunteers from various Township departments and boards is in the process of helping to update the Open Space and Recreation Plan, which is an element of the overall Township Master Plan. The OSRP takes stock of the open space and recreation available in the valley, and it allows the Township to plan for the future.
Community participation is needed. Please visit the Have Your Say Hopewell site (haveyoursayhopewelltwp.org/open-space-and-recreation-plan) to give your opinions on how you use our shared open space and recreation facilities and what you’d like to see improved or added.
Have your voice heard! All community input is greatly appreciated.
Peters-Manning is a member of the Open Space and Recreation Plan Subcommittee.