Vote Early, Vote Often: A Response
School Budget 2003

Student Response to the 2003-2004 Jamesburg Operating School Budget

Written by Tom Bodall
     Do YOU want larger class sizes? Less teachers? Less educational support and technology? Old and outdated textbooks? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you most likely voted against Jamesburg's 2003-2004 Operating School Budget.

     Sadly, the Jamesburg School Budget failed 267-128. 68% of voters aided to its downfall. Thanks to those who did support education and learning in one of the most wonderful towns in New Jersey. Hopefully we can retain the supreme quality of education that Jamesburg has known since Mr. Buckelew opened Jamesburg's first school in 1847. Despite the cuts in the proposed budgets, I do not know where we can cut anymore money. The budget is down to the bare bones.

     Most voters seem to forget that despite the high tax increase, the Board of Education did everything in their power to keep the price down. They are also residents of the town. Their positions are volunteer, and they do not receive any compensation for their time and efforts. Like everyone else, they pay the same school taxes. If they had thought it was too high, they would not have supported it. The Board of Education members are regular people, our neighbors, not affluent residents of a higher class.

     Still being a high school student and a first time voter, I am disappointed. I am disappointed with the results of the election, and also the election turnout. First of all, I know firsthand the budget process. I serve as the Student Representative to the Board of Eduction from the Monroe High School. I see what is needed in both Jamesburg and Monroe, and every cent of the Jamesburg budget was justified. Jamesburg needs dedicated teachers, properly maintained facilities, and enough supplies to ensure that every child receives the best education possible. Unfortunately, not all adults in the community see this side of the budget, from the student's perspective. It might be a good idea to see adults ask the students questions and find out the truth behind what the budget funds for the STUDENTS of Jamesburg. Thanks to voters, Jamesburg will NOT have the following things next year:
     The loss of these important activites directly effect the students and staff of the schools. Hopefully the students are not too upset once they comprehend that the things they greatly enjoy are not offered anymore. What separates an incredible school district from a bland school district is the amount of activities and opportunities that are available. Maybe the students, once eligible to vote, will remember how they suffered in 2003-2004 and will support their school budgets.

The 2003-2004 Jamesburg Operating School Budget Story

     "Vote early, vote often" is a phrase my teacher constantly says in my Advanced Placement United States Government & Politics course at the high school. It is important to exercise the right to vote, and recently, it is more important than ever. April 15, 2003 is the date in which every registered voter in New Jersey has the opportunity to vote for Board of Education candidates and the district's operating budget for the 2003-2004 school year.

     In this column, I am not saying whether to vote 'yes' or 'no'. That is not my intent. The point of this editorial is to remind the citizens to exercise their right to vote and relay the facts concerning the school budget. According to recent statistics, less than 60% of registered voters vote in Presidental elections. Once we reach the local level politics, even less participate in the voting process. Most people do not realize the importance in voting. It is a right guaranteed by the Constitution.

     Jamesburg is faced with a $10 million dollar school budget this year. Most need to know however, that a large chunk of it, is uncontrollable and known as mandatory spending. This mandatory spending accounts for the tution to send Jamesburg students to Monroe. The cost to send just one student to Monroe next year will be $12,600.00. Multiply that number by 215 students for next year and we have 40% of the budget for next year, which is a considerably large amount. That leaves the Jamesburg Schools only 60% of the $10 million to use for the school system. After paying the teachers, only 45.3% remains. Account for personnel services, debt services, maintenance, and transporation, only 23% of the budget remains for "Other Expenses". The other expenses include school programs that children greatly enjoy and benefit from, such as after school activities, athletic programs, and new textbooks. According to the Jamesburg Schools, "In order to offset the increases as much as possible, reductions of $344,000 have already been made by a tight projection of the high school population, elimination of several co-curricular and athletic programs, field trips and related expenses, library staff, and reduced G&A and Business Office supplies and purchased services."

     The presented budget by the Jamesburg Board of Education is a "bare-bones" budget, which means that all spending is just enough to keep the school district operating. This budget, as presented, will increase the tax rate $.43 per $100 of assessed property value, even with all nonessential spending eliminated. It is unfortunate that school aid has been frozen while inflation and prices increase. In a perfect world, as costs go up, theoretically, so would the amount of aid to a school district. But the State of New Jersey is experiencing a tremendous amount of budget defecit, causing all state budgets to be frozen or suspended until further notice.

     Jamesburg and many other municipalities around New Jersey are facing large school tax increases and no extra aid to assist them. Despite these obstacles, schools are managing to provide sound, quality education. The strain has caused districts to be creative in the ways it spends money, which can be useful in the long run, but very mind-boggling in the immediate future.

     Superintendent of Jamesburg Schools, Mr. Richard Ballard addressed the voting issue best in his newsletter to parents. He said, "On April 15 the choice of this district’s direction will be yours, vote with your mind, vote with your heart, but most of all…VOTE."

Feel free to E-Mail and share your opinion and comments!

Click Here to Visit the Jamesburg Public Schools Online.