In The Lobby argues that Gov. Christie should take a page out of gubernatorial candidate Chris Daggett's book and place a strict cap on municipal, county, and school district budgets. Huh? Don’t we have a 4% cap on schools already? Not really. Districts can always apply for a cap waiver, plus there’s all sorts of increases that get a bye: previously-negotiated pay increases, pension payments, etc:
The need for a strict cap is clear: too many local entities feel free to approve raises and contracts that are far greater than the cost of living. If the Marlboro school district were under a strict cap tied to the CPI, would they have felt free to approve a contract with 4.5% pay raises and no contribution to health care costs?[“Felt free” is a bit unfair. In fact, the Marlboro Board of Education engaged in a fierce battle with their local union, mountaineering its way up every available rung in the ladder of contract mediation and stumbling at every step. In the end the Board was defeated by a system heavily rigged towards the status quo (i.e., 4.5% pay raises and no contributions to benefits) whereby a state-appointed Decider makes a decision based on settlement and concession averages and there's no longer any"last, best offer" option. From the Fact-Finder’s report: “While the Board argued strongly for an employee contribution, its presentation and documentation did not carry its burden to make such a change out of the mainstream of school districts in the State and in the Country.”)]
But there’s an equally strong argument to be made for a strict cap, especially given the State’s track record; last year 33 school districts asked for waivers and 25 got their wishes granted by our magnanimous state. In fact, a 4% cap is too high and too easily tied to annual teacher pay increases. 3% hard cap anyone?