Thursday, November 19, 2015

BOE members shoot down Referendum threat to courtesy busing

BOE member Issac Zlatkin said acording to an article in the "the referendum is dead its not going to be approved, member Joel Schwartz vice president was quoted "I don't feel comfortable asking taxpayers for another dollar. The question is will the state appointed monitor use his veto power and order the referendum.
LAKEWOOD - The school district is facing a $6 million deficit due to the failure of a courtesy busing plan to produce the cost savings the district anticipated.

In a surprise announcement at Wednesday night's Board of Education meeting, Schools Superintendent Laura A. Winters said the bids for bus routes serving some 11,000 schoolchildren came in between 40 and 50 percent higher than expected.

As a result, the district will run out of funds to pay for those routes before the school year is over, possibly as soon as February, Board President Ada Gonzalez said.

"We won't have any money," Gonzalez said.

The development sets up a possible showdown between the school board and the district's state-appointed monitor, Michael Azzara, who wants to hold an emergency referendum on Jan. 26 asking voters to provide an additional $6 million to keep the buses rolling.

With Azzara absent from Wednesday's meeting due to illness, the board promptly shot down that idea, then huddled with its attorney in closed session to discuss its legal options should Azzara exercise his veto power and order the referendum anyway.

"The referendum is dead. It's not going to be approved," board member Isaac Zlatkin said.

"I don't feel comfortable asking taxpayers for another dollar," said Joel Schwartz, the board's vice president.

Winters said Azzara could decide how to proceed as early as Thursday.

Thousands affected

The shortfall could impact thousands of children the district isn't legally obligated to provide transportation for, since they live beyond the distance limits set by the state. The vast majority of those receiving non-mandated courtesy busing attend private Orthodox Jewish yeshivas, which have multiplied over the years to keep pace with the steady influx of young Orthodox families moving here.

The question of how to pay for that convenience has split the town along racial, religious and ethnic lines. White, Orthodox taxpayers who rely on the buses say transportation is one of the few services they receive from a district they help to fund, while the predominantly Hispanic and African-American parents who depend on the public schools feel just as strongly that their children are being shortchanged because they say courtesy busing uses up resources that might otherwise help improve the schools.

The issue came to a head again earlier this year, when the projected shortfall reached as high as $8 million. But plans for a referendum were put on hold at the eleventh hour when community leaders and school officials agreed to a cost-saving plan that hinged on schedule changes at the yeshivas. By staggering, or tiering, the yeshivas' start and dismissal times, fewer buses could transport the same number of children, resulting in millions of dollars in anticipated savings.

A female suicide bomber blew herself up and one other jihadist died in a police raid in Paris on Wednesday as explosions and automatic gunfire rang out in an operation targeting the suspected mastermind of last week's attacks.

That's not how it's worked out. One critical stumbling block, district officials say, was that the busing deal wasn't reached until just weeks before the start of the new school year. That left the district with little time to put the bus routes out to bid and award contracts.

"We felt we were behind the curve putting it all together," said Thaddeus Thompson, the district's business administrator.

Parents of school-age children breathed a sigh of relief when the courtesy busing deal was announced, as did township officials, who were bracing for traffic mayhem on the roads. But Lakewood's busing headaches weren't over yet.

Bidding problems

As it turned out, nearly 90 routes failed to garner any bids, which left thousands of schoolchildren without buses to begin the year. Three months later, many parents are still scrambling to get their children to and from school every day.

The district solicited bids a second time, and on Wednesday night the school board awarded contracts for 42 of the routes. However, that still leaves 46 routes unclaimed, affecting more than 1,200 schoolchildren, Thompson said.

To make matters worse, the bids that did come in were well above what the district and its busing consultant, Gus Kakavas, had projected, undermining the whole premise of the negotiated courtesy busing accord.

The Rev. Glenn Wilson, the head of Lakewood U.N.I.T.E., a group that represents the interests of public school families, said the measure was never more than "a Band-Aid just to get us through this year."

The school year isn't half over yet, and already the Band-Aid is coming loose.

Wilson and other community leaders believe the state should adjust the way it doles out school aid to provide more support for a district like Lakewood where the number of children in private schools is several times greater than the public school enrollment. But there are no signs such a remedy is likely anytime soon.


  1. Female suicide bomber? Some ADHD going on over there?

  2. Well, we could get back $180k if we get rid of the state monitor, who has done absolutely nothing for his large salary.

  3. Thanks for a factual article instead of a sensational story with breaking headlines exclusive first report nonsense.

  4. Shannon Mullen, the author of this article for the APP is doing an amazing job writing about the insanity that is Lakewood, without taking sides or sensationalizing anything. Great to have an impartial reporter back on the beat in Lakewood.

  5. Give up on courtesy busing. Our Kehila is so taken hostage by it, it just isn't worth it anymore.

  6. Instead of paying sky high taxes, cancel courtesy bussing, eaach school will pay for bussing, and we will no longer be meshubid to the board of ed controlling ; when the school year starts, what age to enroll, when the year ends, dismisseal times, snow days,...

  7. While courtesy busing is part of your taxes , eliminating it wont have a huge impact. The combined cost of mandatary busing and the tuitions for special ed school , both of which are primarily for our tzibur ,are many times the amount of courtesy busing.
    On another note,somebody who has 6 school children will now need to pay an additional 4500 dollars or so for transportation whereas the courtesy busing portion of his taxes amounted to 500 dollars because it ws spread among all taxpayers .Some families will not he able to afford that. There are always 2 sides to the coin.

    1. Private busing will not cost 4500 that's an exaggeration. Enough with the constant threats.

  8. For 6 kids it can definitely be in the range of 675 to 800 per student per year depending on the run ,the distance to school and whethet or not they can fill the bus to capacity.

  9. Some commenters like to use words like constant threats rather than deal with the facts. Nobody is threatening. The fact is that now the cost of busing is divided by all the taxpayers. If it is borne by the parents, there will be winners and losers. People who have no children in schools or industrial and commercial properties, or those living far from schools will be winners for a few hundred dollars per year per property. Those parents with a lot of children that dont qualify for mandatory busing ,will be big losers to the tune of thousands per year. These are facts ,not threats.

    1. Sorry but your just trolling for either the vaad or school district. The busing bids were approved for the school year though 2016. The boe signed contracts with the bus companies. When they want more money and need a referendum to pass they resort to the busing threat scaring ppl into voting to pass the tax hike. Check it facts it is nothing but a threat.

  10. Yoy like to use fancy words like trolling. Nobody is talking about whether or not the referendum us justified. Of course it is not. A deal is a deal and the Monitor has to,live with it at least for this year. The comments were durected to those who say everybody would he better off without courtesy busing. The comment was that there will be winners and losers. The bug losers will be familues with a large number if children in school who will be paying thousands in new costs. The winners will be those withut children in school or who live far enough to get mandatiry busing.

    1. Their are no winners, this goes back to setting up. then bussing, COMMUNITY LEADERS MET withI. GUS. A PROMISE WAS MADE TO THE Community Leaders by Gus,
      That. by noon on a certain Friday, that private schools should reply with their opening time, bus pu drop off all private schools.A promise gus. made ton those in
      The meeying!
      GUS WOULD START FRIDAY WITH ENTERING public school. Routes pu etc to send out to parents. Now medting was over
      And evidentially now!!! Wr find out, that the privste s chools wete given, more time, not on. The Friday at noon as promised, hete the bus companies went to other districts to obtain contracts set up their schedules with
      Other districts. Sooo now looking back -a promise made was never kept, and community leaders, shouldvecppect an apology!.now were in a bind! That by giving
      Private schools the permission to. Tin pur schools bussing. You get what you give!!!