Consolidation

Yesterday marked the reorganization of the Cumberland County Freeholder board. Tom Sheppard was sworn in as the lone Republican, vastly outnumbered by a hostile Democrat majority that follows every whim and dictate of Lou Magazzu.

Lou talks a good talk. He even manages to have a positive outcome for the residents of the county as he continually diverts money into his pet projects and to his favored flunkies.

One thing that he says sounds good – “consolidation”. Consolidation was the mantra of New Jersey’s failed governor, Jon Corzine. Jon did his best to ram consolidation down the throats of the most efficient towns and townships merely because they were small.  Jon looked the other way at the waste and corruption that permeated his favored cities of Camden, Newark, Hoboken, Jersey City, et. al.

Consolidation is not a panacea. Many of the smaller towns that suffered under Corzine’s heavy hand would not have seen any measurable benefit from consolidating. The one area where consolidation would have a measurable impact is in public education.  New Jersey has 21 counties, but something like 500 school districts (don’t quote me on the exact number there). Most states have one district per county.

There are superintendents in every district, and hence hundreds of positions paying in the six-figures – and that folks, directly hit you in your wallet. But our politicians are gutless, refusing to challenge the Democratically controlled NJEA. After all, the NJEA supports Democrat candidates almost exclusively. In exchange, their power base is never challenged, and your pockets continue to get picked.

To be fair, the education system is not within King Lou’s jurisdiction. But as a loyal Democrat he would never challenge the system. Instead, he is intent on empire building. He is looking to bring all municipal services under an umbrella that he controls. Let me explain why this is a bad idea.

We will take the CCUA as an example. Millville and Vineland have their own authorities. It would seem to make sense to include the administrative aspects of these authorities under one roof and eliminate duplication, resulting an a cost savings for all users. However we have reported frequently Lou’s massive lack of judgment and oversight of the CCUA. Board members are actually paid to attend meetings – and al too often those board members get paid for not attending meetings.  This makes the CCUA a great no-show job opportunity, as has been reported lately concerning the extremely absent Todd Edwards.

In addition, these same board members are eligible for taxpayer funded health benefits that in Lou’s own words cost $20,000 per person. So it is worrisome that our make-believe county-wide utilities authority would be under this same lack of oversight, serving to be nothing more than another avenue for Lou Magazzu to buy support and reward party loyalists.

I urge people to read between the lines when Lou opens his mouth. He does nothing for the public good, unless there is a way for him to personally expand empire. And his control also helps him squelch dissent. The more people that are employed by a county he controls, the more people he can keep silent out of fear of retribution of losing employment.

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9 Responses to Consolidation

  1. Oystercracker1 says:

    Yes, I am back and although I usually agree 100% with your views, you just went over the line a bit when you took on the subject of consolidation.

    There is a lot of talk (most of it misinformed) going on now about consolidation or regionalization of school districts, and in almost every instance, the first thing proponents of regionalization point to is the salaries of superintendents. Yes, it is a fact that if you push school districts together, some savings will take place in the decreased number of superintendents. BUT (and it’s a HUGE BUT), here is where the savings gets gobbled up:

    When you combine districts, you also combine employees with differing contracts and salary guides. Which salary guide do you think will be put in place when you do this? The lower one or the higher one? RIGHT – The higher salary guide is the one that goes into effect. Now, yes, you did save the cost of the eliminated superintendent(s), but you just gave 100’s of other employees major raises. Also, in smaller districts, the superintendent also is the principal, the assistant principal, the curriculum coordinator, the supervisor of transportation, the human resources director, etc. etc. In larger districts, these roles are handled by other well-paid administrators. So, once again, you eliminate superintendents but the savings gets gobbled up elsewhere.

    Another minor matter that most people overlook is the debt of one district when it merges with another. Example: Suppose a district just added a building or a number of classrooms. That district has created a certain amount of debt to be paid by the taxpayers of that district. When you combine that district with another one that has no building debt, guess what happens…. Yes, the district that had no debt, now does! This issue continues to get muddier.

    In Cumberland County, the districts rely on buses to get students to and from school. When you combine them, there is a high likelihood that some buildings will be closed. When that happens, transportation costs go up – and not just a wee bit – a lot!

    Here’s the straight and skinny on the matter. If consolidation or regionalization was such a great thing, wouldn’t you think that Trenton would have mandated it years ago? What is happening now is that Trenton is trying to coax (through budget constraints) districts to merge. That way, when the promised savings fail to materialize, our fearless assembleymen and senators can say, “Hey, it wasn’t me who promised you a rose garden.”

    If you really want to save money in the school districts, why not take a tiny look at some of the ridiculous mandated programs that have shown no true success? I could list them here, but I will leave that to you to discover.

    Suffice it to say that schools have been mandated to be all things to all children whether that makes sense or not.

    OK I am off of my soapbox.

    And even I can’t blame the cost of education on the King of Maggotdom, although if he had a hand in it, you could be sure that the cost would go up.

    I would, however, challenge Lou and his gang of thieves, along with all of the state elected officials as well as the countless municipal elected officials to take a look at the ethics standards to which school board members are held. Maybe if these elected officials had to conform to those that school board members do, we would not have a Lou Magazzu!

  2. WuLi says:

    Oyster, you bring up a lot of good points. I guess the main thing is that consolidation – pros and cons – needs to be discussed openly.

    But before consolidation of any services is brought to the table, and you touched on this in your last sentence, ethics is paramount.

    Lou Magazzu has proven that he is willing to change the ethics code to conform to his whims. He had six puppets that willingly allowed him to do so without as much as raising an eyebrow. As long as Cumberland County is the quagmire it is, I would have to be against any consolidation that serves only to empower Lou and disenfranchise the voters.

  3. Oystercracker1 says:

    My point EXACTLY

  4. WuLi says:

    However, many of the points you bring up are assuming that things will be done they way thing have always been done according to New jersey’s corrupt brand of politics.

    I just wonder (and this is a mental exercise – I am pessimistic that we have much of a chance of fixing NJ politics at any level) if we could change the ways things are done, just how much of a savings we could see.

    All one has to do is compare the cost of educating one child across states and you will see that we spend way more per child. And throwing money at it doesn’t mean our children get better educations.

    I was privileged recently to visit the Bridgeton Public Schools ExCEL program. They have completely thrown away the book and approached public education in a new way.

    There is not enough space or time to explain their system (every child MUST learn to play a strong instrument, every child MUST learn two languages, they go to school 6 days a week, and one month longer than the normal school year.

    The NJEA hates the teachers at this school because they not only are willing to go the extra mile, they want to. I was so impressed after speaking with Mr. Garza, the head teacher (there is no principal on premises, and they do without the benefits of the administrative crap that seems to weigh down our school system) that I just had this weird idea that there really might be hope on the horizon.

    Once you unladen yourself of the bureaucratic burden, and you spoke of that too, the mandates – and allow teachers to teach and reward students for learning, and involve the parents in the process… well you get the idea.

    And the per student cost when you use real life numbers is less than the average cost in Bridgeton or the rest of the county.

    Of course these teachers are all renegades! they dared to oppose the system and come up with a better way. And we all know what Lou Magazzu thinks of renegades…

  5. Jim says:

    In all fairness to Lou, back in 2003 Jim Sauro Freeholder Director appointed two staunch Republicans to he CCUA board. They may have been very well qualified but the were very much Republican. I’m sure they took the salary and may have taken health benefits. The Democrats have had control of the county all but one of forty years. The old adage: To the victor goes the spoils. King Louie gets the job done, his way. It may not always be right but Lou and the rest of the County Democrats keep getting re-elected by the majority of the county’s registered voting residents. How do you beat that?

  6. WuLi says:

    Jim, the one point you are forgetting is that more people voted AGAINST Lou Magazzu than for him, but in a race where Lou was campaigning against two Republicans, two Independent Democrats, and two other independents as well as his own Democrat team member – the 500 votes that he took the lead by is far from an ultimatum.

    Take into consideration the hanky-panky with the ballots that this website reported, union members being strong–armed and TOLD who they were going to vote for, the hundreds of non-voters bussed to the polls and told who to vote for on the trip they made for free cookies (or whatever else) – and Lou is far from being seated by popular mandate.

    Has he been duly elected? Yes, and so we owe him the courtesy of his office. However, he owes the taxpayers and the voters the courtesy of doing his job properly, and he owes us to cut our the shenanigans.

    Until that happens, MWatch has a reason to be.

  7. JamesRSauro says:

    I would like to set the record straight. I was Freeholder Director in 2002. I did make appointments that were Republicans. I also appointed Gary Zimmerman Treasure. He is not a Republican. I also had the right to fire every Department Head and replace them with a Republican. I did not do that. If they did their job well, they stayed. Please do not compare me to Lou. He’ll probably say the same about me.

  8. PaperCut says:

    “Jim, the one point you are forgetting is that more people voted AGAINST Lou Magazzu than for him,…”

    Got to get real. This logic means that something like 98% of the people voted against the renegades/independent dems. You don’t really mean that do you?

  9. Jim says:

    Well, all I can say is when I read “The News” yesterday there was a picture of King Louie getting anointed (sworn in) for another term. You can slice and dice but face the facts Lou and crew are stiil running the county. This forum has the right to hold Lou accountable for his actions on the freeholder board and should. Maybe more should be focused on getting electable candidates. The Cumberland County Republican Party has not had a real party leader in almost 40 years. If they did they would be making some noise by now. Why can’t we elect more Republican Freeholders in Cumberland County? Yes Mr. Sauro I stand corrected 2002. I guess those two CCUA board members you fired were not doing a good job or you would not have replaced them. Right? It will be interesting to see how Tom Sheppard handles himself with this democratic board. Please, no rubber stamp. Seen enough of that in the past. Hope he has fire in his gut to get the job done, he’ll need it. The jury is still out. I have not seem a republican lion on that board in many years. Relax, somebody has to play devils advocate. Wake up, let’s get busy.

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