Candidates Respond to Question of Keeping Taxes Low
In an effort to better understand what voters want to know about the seven candidates for the Board of Education, we invited the community to send in questions. Each candidate was given the same set of ten questions from that community input and was invited to respond to any six of them. They had six days to submit their answers. The questions ranged from handling division on the BOE to keeping school taxes low and to more pointed questions about book banning and school segregation.
Five of the seven candidates responded by the deadline. Jim Smith and Juan Pabon did not participate.
We will present the responses in a series of articles, publishing them in collections that will allow the community to directly compare responses from the various candidates. Responses are listed in no particular order and will vary from article to article. This first one tackles a question on many voters’ minds:
Are you going to stick up for the taxpayers and stop raising taxes?
Cameron Hebron - “Absolutely, I’ve been abundantly clear my platform of advocacy includes advocating for more infrastructure on a state and federal level. The burden of care for many of the health and financial disparities we see shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of the taxpayer.”
Fahim Abedrabbo - “Yes, it is imperative that we reach out to our state legislators to advocate for a continued increase in the state funding provided. There is a balance between funding districts through taxes and stabilizing the taxes of taxpayers, as the antiquated state budget formula does not work. In the past 10 years the board of education has either stayed at zero percent over the years or has gone to four percent tax increases. The zero percent tax increase has caused the board of education to go to four percent to stay current with the change of education in personnel, academic programs, and the facilities of the district. This means that there needs to be a middle ground of tax increases to ensure the board stays current with the expansion of education, while keeping the taxpayers in mind. The middle ground of tax increases needs to be discussed by the board to come to a decision of what is appropriate to supplement the budget. While the administration needs to educate students and maintain the expectations of personnel, the state should be held accountable in allocating funds so it is not on the shoulders of taxpayers.”
Joseph Siano - “As a member of the board of education, I understand the importance of being a responsible steward of taxpayers' money and ensuring that every decision we make is one that benefits our community. My commitment to you is to do whatever is in my power under the circumstances to not see a tax increase. While it’s true that many decisions are out of my hands, I take this responsibility very seriously and will do all that I can within our policies and regulations - as well as within state laws - to ensure any increases are measured, fair, and justifiable.”
Tanya Suarez - “As with any other public good such as the police force, fire departments, and libraries, public schools are funded by public dollars. The way I desire to stick up for taxpayers is a long-term plan to fight for federal dollars to fully fund public schools. The way the funding policy is designed now places an unfair, but inevitable, burden on the local taxpayer, particularly those who are homeowners. I am also a homeowner so I understand. This funding policy is an inequitable way for schools to receive adequate funding for basic needs, often leaving behind disabled students and the necessities of experiential learning such as field trips and extracurricular activities. It is my long-term desire to fight for more federal dollars so that Clifton’s school district, and districts statewide, are fully federally funded. This will allow for better resources for not only Clifton schools but all public schools statewide. I trust that having schools fully federally funded will alleviate the burden of annual city tax raises. As a community, we must honor that public education is the foundation for continuing our democracy in a way that is valuable to all.”
Joe Canova - “In my first term of three years we had a 0% increase in year one, a 0% in year two, and a 2% in year three. I am committed to being fiscally responsible and exploring every option to avoid raising taxes. However, I do support investing in our future and ensuring the highest quality education for our students as they are the future of Clifton. This is a balance between what is possible and what is fiscally and practically possible.”