ELIZABETH – Eight of the nine City Council members are in agreement with a plan to increase taxes on the average home by $160 and terminate several hundred school employees whose salaries are paid by state revenue.
Members of the municipal governing body took charge over the school budget when it was narrowly defeated by voters in the April 20 election. Councilmen Bill Gallman and Nelson Gonzalez are pushing to eliminate 150 school security jobs while Councilmen Manny Grova and Joseph Keenan want to privatize about 300 food service positions, but they all desire to inflict layoffs on teachers.
They also agree that taxes should increase for the average homeowner by $160.
“I’ve waited 14 years for this,” said Councilman Ed Jackus, a school district employee who believes he is finally able to exert influence to punish those who have crossed him. However, Councilman Carlos Cedeno said those who have a job or relative employed by the district have an obligation to excuse themselves from participating in budget talks because their financial interest creates a conflict.
“My wife works for the school system, so I am abstaining from this process but I am bothered by the glee with which some council members are inflicting pain on Elizabeth’s children,” said Cedeno, the only member of the council who has voted against every tax increase.
Frank Mazza, Frank Cuesta, Keenan and Jackus also have conflicting interests, but they have not abstained from the process. Council members hope to inflict political harm on their challengers in the June 8 Democratic primary. Armando DaSilva, a former school board president, is vying with Keenan in the Third Ward and Carlos Lucio, who is challenging Gonzalez in the Second Ward, is a school principal.
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