Editor's note: I corrected the name of the Hackensack school where the boiler stopped working this winter.By VICTOR E. SASSON
HACKENSACK, N.J. -- In next Tuesday's school election, Mayor John Labrosse and other members of the City Council are hoping to take control of the Board of Education and cut the bloated $126.5 million school budget plan.
Voters can say "no" to the proposed $84.5 million tax levy to support the 2019-20 school budget, sending the plan to the council for cuts.
But sadly, legions of Hackensack residents don't know that, and in past April elections, the budget has been approved by a margin of a few hundred voters.
More than 23,000 residents are registered to vote in Hackensack, and about 45% of every property tax bill goes to support the schools.
Whether through ignorance, apathy or laziness, residents have allowed the Zisa family political dynasty to control their schools, which are known for high salaries and low test scores.
In the 2018 school election, the proposed tax levy proposition was approved 695-447.
A "no" vote on the school tax levy next Tuesday would send the proposed budget to the City Council, which can cut the plan or leave it intact. In addition to property taxes, the schools are supported by tuition from other districts, aid and grants.
High salaries, low scores
Zisa-backed Board of Education members have rewarded administrators and teachers handsomely, but test scores have lagged at the majority of the city's schools.
The average salary for an administrator is about $169,000 a year, highest in the state, City Councilman Leo Battaglia said.
The average salary for a teacher is about $83,000, among the highest in the state, and the school board spends $18,700 to educate each student, he said.
More than 160 students weren't able to provide proof of residency, but city officials believe the number attending Hackensack schools from out of the district is well over 200.
The average age of city schools is 100 years, board officials said when they proposed the $170 million renovation and building plan, which included a new junior high school and parking garage on the high school campus.
This winter, the boiler stopped working at the Fanny Meyer Hillers Elementary School, and teachers and students had to wear their coats and gloves in the classroom.