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>Wake Up Ridgewood – Change Is Heading Your Way

New Jersey towns face crash diet of budget cuts
By Philip Read/The Star-Ledger
January 09, 2010, 10:00PM

The furloughs are business-as-usual in Maplewood, so much so that they wind up listed under “Events” on the suburb’s official website.

There will be 12 more of the monthly unpaid days off this year. There’ll be rolling summer library closings, too. Add those to the 22 staffers laid off — 10 percent of the municipal work force — and its pedestal on Money magazine’s list of “one of the best places to live in America” looks frayed.

The crash diet in this Essex County Township isn’t likely to end anytime soon after Gov.-elect Christopher Christie on Wednesday warned New Jersey’s already cash-strapped municipalities that state aid would be reduced in the coming fiscal year. The sobering reason: The state could run out of money as early as March.

The cuts — coupled with the fallout from as much as a 25 percent rollback in state spending — are likely to force towns to reconsider what services they can provide.

“We have been living far beyond our means — living a lifestyle of municipal and educational services beyond our economic capacity,” said James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. “There is no painless silver bullet to get back on track. The question is not, ‘When will things get back to normal?’ but rather, ‘What will the new normal be?’

“There may have to be significant service downsizing in adjusting to this new normal,” Hughes said.

That is likely to translate into a debate about what a municipality considers a “core” service versus a “discretionary” one.

Traditionally, municipalities have provided everything from road repairs to snow cleanup, from libraries to community centers, tennis lessons to summer beach events. Kevin Sluka, the administrator in Somerville, said these usually aren’t luxuries, but some services towns typically provide are not mandated by law.

New Jersey towns might forgo recreation departments, for example, since they are not mandated, said Sluka. “Dog licenses are mandated. Cat licenses are not,” Sluka said. “Is there a benefit to knowing what your cat population is? Service is not the driving factor. Economics is.”


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>New Jersey’s suburban high schools have traditionally emphasized AP courses, but that is changing as more schools add college-credit courses

January 10, 2010
An Emphasis on A.P. Is Changing

New Jersey’s suburban high schools have traditionally emphasized AP courses, but that is changing as more schools add college-credit courses through partnerships with Bergen Community College, Fairleigh Dickinson University and other colleges in the state.

Ridgewood High School has offered college classes in English and chemistry through Bergen Community, and art history through Fairleigh Dickinson, since 2007. Next year, it plans to expand its Bergen Community courses to include physics and environmental science. Debra Anderson, a district spokeswoman, said the college courses offered middle-level students another option to advanced placement and honors classes.

Fairleigh Dickinson, which has campuses in Bergen and Morris Counties, runs one of the oldest and best-known dual-enrollment programs in New Jersey. Called Middle College, it started in 1984 and has expanded to 83 high schools across the state, including 12 since 2007.

Today, there are 2,500 juniors and seniors taking more than 150 courses for college credit through the program. Students pay Fairleigh Dickinson a fee of $200 for a three-credit course and have access to its campus libraries, laboratories and computer centers. University professors also visit the high schools to offer support and professional development.

“We want to be a resource,” said Kenneth T. Vehrkens, a dean who oversees the program. “The name — Middle College — is the idea of being a bridge between high school and college.” WINNIE HU

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>A-194, if passed will allow illegal immigrants in New Jersey to receive in-state tuition rates at state colleges

A-194, if passed by the legislature and signed by Corzine, will allow illegal immigrants in New Jersey to receive in-state tuition rates at state colleges. The key word here is “illegal.”

These immigrants, either because they entered the United States illegally or stayed in the U.S. beyond the time or conditions permitted by their student visas/green cards, are now illegally residing in the state of New Jersey. They didn’t follow the rules to come here like your grandparents. They’re not paying their full-share of taxes. They’re not adequately supporting the state’s public resources and services for which they rely to subsist. They have not registered for service in the armed forces or taken the citizenship oath:

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce andabjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate,state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subjector citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws ofthe United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic;that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I willbear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; thatI will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the UnitedStates when required by the law; that I will perform work of nationalimportance under civilian direction when required by the law; and thatI take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purposeof evasion; so help me God.”

In-state tuition at New Jersey’s world-class institutions of higher-learning is a privilege reserved for state taxpayers. We support these schools with our hard-earned money and, in turn, can enroll ourselves or our children there at discounted rates.

For the legislature to consider extending this privilege of New Jersey citizenship to individuals of illegal status is an absolute outrage unequaled by any of the other screwy, anti-taxpayer legislation entertained during the ongoing lame duck session.

Click here to read more about the potential cost of A-194. Please — in the next 48 hours, find your state legislator’s contact information by clicking here:

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>Unions v. Race to the Top


Is the Obama Administration going to side with school reformers, or will it reward state and local teachers union affiliates that defend the status quo? This is a question states are asking as they prepare their applications for $4.35 billion in Race to the Top competitive grants. Some guidance from Education Secretary Arne Duncan would be helpful.

Teachers unions in Minnesota and Florida are currently threatening to withhold support for their state Race to the Top applications, which are due later this month. So is the school boards association in Louisiana. This matters because the Administration has placed a premium on states garnering “local school district support” in order to win a grant. Not having union buy-in isn’t fatal, but it definitely hurts a state’s chances of getting federal funds.

States will be evaluated on a 500-point system, with the largest number of points (138) going to states that improve teacher effectiveness by using student performance to help rate instructors. States are awarded 45 additional points for getting “local education agencies” to sign off on their applications—about the same number of points they get for turning around failing schools.

Unions are mainly opposed to teacher accountability reforms. Both Florida and Minnesota want to implement or expand systems that tie teacher pay to student test scores. The irony is that both President Obama and Secretary Duncan have expressed support for such programs, yet Race to the Top is giving leverage to reform opponents who would eliminate or weaken these policies, and it punishes states that want to expand them over union objections.

Collective-bargaining agreements that protect bad teachers also harm children. Unions, which put the interests of their members above those of students, aren’t bothered by this. But state reformers who are trying to correct the problem don’t deserve to be penalized on their Race to the Top applications. They deserve some political cover from “the top,” meaning Mr. Duncan.

Race to the Top awards are supposed to go to states demonstrating “a coordinated and deep-seated commitment to reform.” Letting unions undermine state reform applications is a race to nowhere.

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>Police Supervisor Testing Process Used In Ridgewood Cited As Discriminatory

>Police Supervisor Testing Process Used In Ridgewood Cited As Discriminatory

Suit calls N.J. police test biased

New Jersey’s Civil Service test for police officers seeking a promotion to sergeant discriminates against African-American and Hispanic candidates, according to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday.

Even African-Americans and Hispanics who pass the multiple-choice test are less likely to receive promotions because their scores are lower, according to the 10-page lawsuit filed against the state and the Civil Service Commission.

The suit seeks to block the state from using the test.

At least 120 municipal and county police departments in New Jersey, including the Village of Ridgewood, have used the discriminatory system from 2000 to 2008, according to Department of Justice spokesman Alejandro Miyar.

Eighteen of the state’s 20 largest cities and townships, including Paterson, use the same test.

“This complaint should send a clear message to all public employers that employment practices with unlawful discriminatory impact on account of race or national origin will not be tolerated,” said Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division.

“The Justice Department will take all necessary action to ensure that such discriminatory practices are eliminated and that the victims of such practices are made whole.”

Questions changed yearly
Civil Service Commission spokesman Mark Perkiss said the test is developed internally and administered annually with different questions each year.

“We’ve been testing for this position for decades,” Perkiss said.

He did not comment on the contents of the test. He referred questions on the lawsuit to the Attorney General’s Office, but the spokesman there, David Wald, declined comment.
Newark Police Department spokesman Detective Hubert Henderson said the approximately four-hour test covers traffic and criminal laws, as well as state guidelines.

When preparing for the test, Henderson said, candidates study two or three textbooks and sometimes take courses costing $2,500 to $3,000.

He said he had never heard any discrimination complaints involving the test.
The Department of Justice is arguing the state has violated Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination, because it hasn’t proved that the test, which some departments require for promotions to sergeant, is an essential tool for determining fitness for the job.

Between 2000 and 2008, 89 percent of the white candidates who took the test passed it. That rate compared with 73 percent of African-American candidates and 77 percent of Hispanic candidates who took the test, the lawsuit says.

‘Disparate impact’
“For whatever reason, the test as it currently exists has a disparate impact,” Miyar said.
“We don’t have a problem with the use of a written test, but if the state wishes to do so it must not have a disparate impact.”

The lawsuit says the state and the Civil Service Commission “have pursued and continue to pursue policies and practices that discriminate against African-American and Hispanic candidates and that deprive or tend to deprive African-Americans and Hispanics of employment opportunities.”

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>Update :Ridgewood Schools Get Go Ahead for $48M expansion, renovation plans

>Ridgewood schools can proceed with $48M expansion, renovation plans
Friday, January 8, 2010

Ridgewood can proceed as planned with a $48 million expansion and renovation plan for its public schools after the state reiterated Friday that money promised for the project would be forthcoming.

The school district on Thursday posted a notice from Superintendent of Schools Daniel Fishbein on its Web site saying that the release of $10 million in state contributions to the project would be delayed pending review by the incoming Christie administration. The notice said Ridgewood would not begin work until the matter was resolved.

But Friday afternoon, a representative of the state agency that doles out the money said the funds approved in a recent referendum would be on their way.

“The press release issued by Ridgewood was unfortunately not accurate,” said Larry Hanover, spokesman for the Schools Development Authority. “We have been in dialogue with the district and have reassured them that &hellip grants that have passed local referendum will be processed in accordance with direction received from both the current administration and the incoming governor’s staff.”

Christie has vowed to review all further borrowing by the state, leading to some confusion in local school districts. Mike Yaple, spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association, said his group had gotten calls from one or two other districts that were worried about receipt of the state funds. “It was a concern,” said Yaple. “People weren’t sure how it was going to play out.”

Bob Hutton, vice president of the Ridgewood school board, said earlier conversations with the state led Ridgewood to believe the money was in jeopardy. “We were told point blank by the SDA that they weren’t signing anything,” Hutton said.

However, late Friday, after the SDA saw the Ridgewood release, the district received word that their project was a go, Hutton said. Work is slated to begin in the summer, he said.

The project will include improvements at nine schools and several athletic fields in the district. It was approved by a margin of 62 votes in December.

E-mail: [email protected]

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>N.J. Assembly approves measure moving non-partisan elections to November

>N.J. Assembly approves measure moving non-partisan elections to November

The Assembly today sent a bill allowing New Jersey towns to move nonpartisan elections to November to Gov. Jon Corzine for his signature. Currently, nonpartisan municipal elections are held on the second Tuesday in May. “Allowing towns that hold May nonpartisan elections to move those elections to November without jeopardizing their nonpartisan status is a win for everyone,” said Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan Jr. (D-Middlesex). Diegnan and Peter J. Barnes III (D-Middlesex) sponsored the bill.The bill (A-351) allows any of the 86 municipalities that currently hold nonpartisan municipal elections to move, through passage of an ordinance, the election to the same date as the general election, the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. According to published reports, the move could save Spotswood Borough in Middlesex County up to $25,000 in election-related costs. For a city such as Newark, the savings would approach $1 million. The Assembly cleared the measure 49-25, with two abstentions. (Star Ledger)

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>$65K Parking Meter Sleeves

Village Council to Consider Spending $65K+ For Decorative Parking Meter Sleeves

Yes, that’s right; the Ridgewood Village Council is considering spending $65K, plus approximately 300 man hours of labor, to install decorative plastic sleeves on parking meter posts throughout the Central Business District.

$350K for bathrooms at Vets Field, now this. When will it end?

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>$48 million dollar Referendum :Cautiously Optimistic?

>It seems that Ms. Goodman is right to be cautious about whether Ridgewood will ever see the $10 million dollars in matching funds from the state of NJ for our turf fields. We have it from a good source that Governor Corzine has refused to sign off on any school referendums. Which means that Ridgewood’s recently passed $48 million dollar bond referendum is in limbo awaiting the approval of incoming Governor Christie. Who, by the way, has made it abundantly clear that he is going to cut state spending.

So, if Governor Christie doesn’t sigh off on the recent school referendums, they will have to be voted on again. What do you think the chances are that our BOE can muster the 62 vote margin needed to pass this boondoggle of a bond again? If I were a bettin’ man, I’d say slim to none considering we ain’t gettin’ the $10 mill in matchin’ grant money from the new governor.

Watch how optimism turns to pessimism as our BOE grapples with this issue and a cash shortfall of close to $3 million in this year’s operating budget.

As we have said all along, this group at Cottage Place is in over its head… in every capacity. Thank goodness we have great principals who run our schools in spite of the BOE and its bloated administration.

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>Save the Historic Schedler House

>I would like to inform you and your readers that the Schedler Home was built in 1820 by John A. L. Zabriskie. that means it is 190 years old and historic.

The council thinks it is in bad shape and needs to be demolished. but none of them have been inside to see for themselves. It needs to be properly assessed by a historical architect. It was well taken care of by Florence Schedler and needs to be examined properly for its historical value.

yes, the village needs more fields. but preserving our history is important too. 7 acres of land is enough room for both. The council can not simply demolish a 190 year old historical house. They should at least consider ALL options first.

if you believe this house should be saved, let your voice be heard at the next council meeting on Jan 13.

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