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'Irresponsible Spending' Could Lead To Unprecedented Tax Hike In Garfield

Board Member Jeffrey Stewart responds to public comment at a Garfield Board of Education meeting.
Board Member Jeffrey Stewart responds to public comment at a Garfield Board of Education meeting. Photo Credit: Arthur Augustyn

GARFIELD, N.J. — "Irresponsible spending" is what some Garfield school board members are saying could lead to one of two things: an unprecedented tax hike or the elimination of dozens of jobs in the school district.

The referendum in April will ask residents if they will approve a 15.9 percent tax increase in order to retain teachers' jobs and pay for paraprofessionals' health care within the district.

Many people showed up to Monday's meeting wearing all black to support teachers, but some critics say the referendum is the result of poorly managed finances.

"The biggest reason [for this deficit], in my opinion, is irresponsible spending," Board of Education Member Everett Garnto said.

"It didn't just happen today. This occurred over the last three to five years."

Garfield's Board of Education is currently experiencing a $6.8 million deficit. The Board has attributed the deficit to rising health care costs and flat-rate state aid.

"They’re passing the buck onto the taxpayers and not taking responsibility for their spending," Garfield resident Frank Barber said.

Barber is one of the several candidates running for Garfield's Board of Education in April.

Garnto said the board's known financial troubles make it unlikely that the referendum will be supported by voters.

"As a taxpayer, I don’t see how I would be consciously able to vote for [the referendum], especially knowing the history," Garnto said.

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