Testimony of Robert Kern Curtis, President, Hackensack Education Association, before
the Joint Appropriations Committee of the Legislature of the State of New Jersey,
February 24, 1981.
I am deeply concerned by the proposed budget cuts which call for the elimination of
equalized aid to minimum aid school districts. I understand that minimum aid districts are
those whose equalized assessed valuation per child is over $156,000.00 and that these
districts should have the ability to support education on their own. The situation in
Hackensack is, however, quite different from what it is in many other communities.
Extensive cuts have already been made in Hackensack's school budget. Last year alone,
twenty positions were eliminated. In order to preserve our much needed educational
programs, Hackensack's teachers have foregone salary guide raises commensurate with
the increased cost of living each year, for the last nine years. During each of the last three
years, these raises have been three to five percent while inflation has been rampant. This
represents a real sacrifice on the teachers' part, made in order to preserve both quality
education and a healthy tax structure in Hackensack.
- The per capita income of residents of Hackensack is low.
- A number of stores and business facilities are vacant.
- A high percentage of elderly residents cannot pay higher taxes.
- Many homeowners in Hackensack are members of minority groups who could not afford
to have a home in other New Jersey communities.
- The income tax passed five years ago was supposed to relieve property taxes. This has
not happened in Hackensack.
- Hackensack needs diversified educational offerings. To meet the needs of all her
children, Hackensack must offer a large variety of high cost programs. These include
vocational, remedial, and special education.
- Hackensack's schools have been competitive with those of other systems in Bergen
county as well as with those of systems whose makeup is similar to Hackensack's, but,
because of Hackensack's special needs, the cost of education in Hackensack is
significantly higher than it is in many other communities in the State.
A reduction of $836,910.00 in aid will devastate education in the schools of Hackensack
and this sum cannot be made up in local taxes. To raise this amount, in addition to the
normal inflation increases as restricted by the CAPS, requires that the school tax be
raised approximately 20%. Such a tax increase, levied on the residents of Hackensack,
would be a crushing burden. Hackensack has always supported education and has
provided for all her children. This proposed cut forces her to decrease school programs
and faculty to a degree which will lay waste to an excellent and comprehensive system of
schools. To absorb this cut requires the elimination of instructors and programs.
Approximately 55 positions, or 15% of the faculty and staff, will need to be eliminated.
I appeal to you carefully to consider this proposed cut in school aid. Hackensack holds
education her number one priority. We need your help now when we are so threatened.