May 29, 2024
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A Push for Teaneck Transparency, Integrity and Financial Responsibility

Recently, Teaneck residents went through what we considered to be a potential calamity. The proposed 2015 Teaneck Board of Education budget contained a severe change for the 2,000-plus private school students—consolidation to six bus stops and eliminating courtesy busing completely (individuals within 1.4 miles of their school). This would have been a disaster in so many ways with regard to child safety, parents’ ability to get their kids to school, traffic, cost and liability. This woke up Teaneck’s private-school community, resulting in over 700 individuals attending the BOE meetings and the creation of my Facebook group called Teaneck: End the Madness. While I know the BOE has difficult decisions to make, cutting busing and endangering the safety of our children should be something that is not negotiable. It should be noted that the BOE clearly stated that this will return as potential future cuts will be necessary, so it is time for the residents to speak up and to have our voices heard.

My brother, David Gruber, who is currently a member of the Board of Education in Teaneck, made many aware of the BOE budget issues. I found this to be an indication of a much bigger problem, namely, a lack of transparency, integrity and financial responsibility by both the Teaneck Board of Education and the Teaneck Town Council and Municipality, which I believe can be remedied in time.

It is the goal of my group to make Teaneck residents aware of what is going on with regard to the Teaneck Town Council and the Teaneck Board of Education. Most residents accept the current environment and pay their taxes without question. However, there is little transparency in how the tax money is used and there is significant waste in both budgets, and these need to be looked at more carefully.

I started looking at some of the township’s budget information and found it to be very troubling and the math just didn’t add up. The surplus should equal the budget numbers, less the actuals. This is simply not the case and there is money that is missing, or was reallocated without adjusting the budgets. It’s one thing not to like the numbers; it’s another to look at them and realize they don’t add up. These are the questions we need to ask our representatives and more importantly get our representatives to ask the town manager as they are our representatives, elected by us, the people.

More recently, the town council discussed plans to spend $73,000 on developing a bathroom and concession stand in Votee Park. Yes, you read correctly, that’s just for the plans. The structure was to be 4,300 sq. ft., that’s larger than most homes in Teaneck—do we really need something that big and fancy? It is easy to spend other people’s money, but let’s spend it responsibly on necessities.

I believe that residents are tired of being misled or of not being told the complete story. Residents are willing to accept mistakes and to live with them, but when mistakes are made, they need to be admitted instead of justified.

I used to live on the Upper West Side and was very involved there in a number of synagogues and charities, and as a result, I know a lot of people. Like many singles from the Upper West Side I eventually married and moved to Teaneck. So, others approached me saying, “Gruber, get involved—you understand finance/budgets and you know tons of people.”

I guess I owe this partially to my philosophy of “see something, say something” while others believe “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well, as I see it, it’s been broken for years and Teaneck residents have had enough and it’s time to End the Madness. Many residents have grown to accept the “new normal,” where the Township tax rates have increased by 37 percent since 2007, more than double the CPI rate of 16.4 percent (BOE has grown by 21 percent in the same time frame).

The goal of our grassroots movement called Teaneck: End the Madness is to ask for transparency, integrity and financially responsible decisions by our elected officials. We have a web page that is currently under construction at www.teaneckendthemadness.org and a Facebook group. The Facebook group grew rapidly—within the first week the group had 500 members and after two weeks it was up to 750 members.

Anyone and everyone who lives in Teaneck should be interested in this movement as many expenses are not fully divulged with regard to the specifics and ultimately lead to cost overruns or unintended expenditures. In the name of transparency this should all be available and shared with all Teaneck residents. I will gladly share any and all information I have with anyone who is interested and I ask others to do research as well. This is a grassroots group and it will only work with your help and involvement, so thank you for your help—but there is a long way to go and I believe together we can accomplish a balanced budget and tax reductions.

Teaneck residents only get small pieces of information and usually after decisions have been made. We do ask our elected officials for transparency so that we can share with Teaneck residents—no opinions, just facts. We do not pretend to have all the answers, and aim to get more residents involved asking their elected officials the difficult questions. There are better solutions than accepting the “new normal” of having high taxes and fewer benefits as compared to neighboring townships. There are alternative solutions out there and it’s time to start exploring them. We aim for political integrity, honesty and transparency, which should encourage people to move beyond blame, to get involved, to make a difference in our community. Also, if needed, we aim to find candidates who will work within a clear framework of integrity, transparency and accountability. Serving is a privilege and not a right and should be used for bettering the lives of the township residents and not for personal agendas.

If you are interested in getting involved or helping out by doing research or going to town meetings (Council and BOE), please get involved. Everyone is invited to speak his or her mind or accept the “new normal.” Please look us up on Facebook Teaneck: End the Madness.

Stephen Gruber has lived in Teaneck for the past three years and can be reached at [email protected].

By Stephen Gruber

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