Pending Legislation Would Release Schools from 2 Percent Cap for School Security

In the wake of the Newtown massacre, schools coping with upgrading security without going over the 2 percent cap may get relief from pending legislation.

In the wake of Newtown, schools everywhere are performing security audits and collaborating with local law enforcement to implement new security intitiatives.

New Milford Police Chief Frank Papapietro and Superintendent Michael Polizzi confirmed that together they have been reviewing security in each of New Milford's schools and exploring new technology in an effort to implement new systems, but they are not yet ready to openly discuss what they are looking into.

"Some initiatives we will be able to talk about, and some we won't," Papapietro said, stressing that to reveal new school security measures is to open the playbook for someone intent on causing harm.

"Central to all of this, we have to balance the need to secure each building with the need to keep the learning environment from becoming a prison," Papapietro added.

However, the question being asked by many Superintendents is how to implement new security measures and still stay within the 2 percent cap.

There is a bill pending in the Assembly, A3814, that would allow schools to go over the 2 percent cap for securiity expenditures without having to go to the voters for permission. The bill, introduced on Feb. 11, is sponsored by Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo (D) representing Mercer and Middlesex Counties. 

The 2 percent property tax cap was signed into law by Governor Chris Christie in the summer of 2010. The law set a 2 percent cap on annual property tax hikes, effectively lowering the ceiling on county and municipal government and school district spending.

With certain exceptions, municipalities and school districts may increase their tax levies more than 2 percent, but only by approval from the voters.

This pending bill provides that any annual increase in expenditures on school security costs in excess of two percent incurred by a school district will be excluded from the limit.

The bill has been referred to the Assembly Education Committee.

Patch will be following the progression of this bill.


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Tomasina Schwarz February 21, 2013 at 02:47 PM
What is interesting is, that we are willing to lift the cap for security but not for other important academic and emotional needs of our children. I am not fearing anyone killing my children at school-they have more of a chance of being hit by a car on Pyle or Prospect than being gunned down at school. The fear mongering around this issue is quite disturbing. Kids in Chicago have been dealing with gun violence for a long time and now suburban children are killed and they seem more important than the kids in Chicago, that's not right. I fear more that my children are not being properly educated than the possibility of them being a victim of gun violence. Look at the statistics, more kids in Bergen County are victims of alcohol and drug abuse than gun shots. I worry about my kid getting into a car with someone who has been drinking, more than i worry about gun violence. I am totally against changing any security policies based upon the Sandy Hook atrocity. I don't want guns in school-no matter who is holding them. The last thing we need is a child to be accidentally shot at school because they seemed to be holding a gun, when it was really a black water bottle!!! We need to offer more mental health assistance, that's why the cap should be lifted; not to pay more people to carry guns at school.
Peter Rebsch February 21, 2013 at 04:57 PM
I couldn't agree more...you are 100% correct!
Lori Barton February 21, 2013 at 05:30 PM
Absolutely correct. The caps that are in place prevent us from acquiring new books or computers or software needed to provide the latest in education and to keep up with the advances necessary. Special Education costs and mental health assistance should be outside the cap and paid for by the state, not by local taxpayers. But instead our legislators will bypass the cap for security or for health insurance premiums. I understand that the safety of our students is paramount, but these caps are stifling education.
Ann Piccirillo February 21, 2013 at 11:55 PM
Tomasina, did you happen to catch "This American Life" on NPR this weekend? It goes in-depth about Harper High School in Chicago where last year 29 students were shot, but it never rose to the level of national news. For anyone who hasn't heard it, here's the link: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/487/harper-high-school-part-one. The SRO officer in this program made me really feel the enormous impact that SRO officers have within (and with-out) the school community. I've had the opportunity to talk to New Milford's SRO officers and they, too, are very tied into the school community and have a finger on the pulse of so much that is going on. This show is a really important listen.
Tomasina Schwarz February 22, 2013 at 03:20 PM
I understand that these officers may be a part of the community however they don't change the scope of mental health needs of our children. If we wait until high school to make these community connections then we are too late. As a teacher of high school students, I have found too many untrained educators that are not willing to report mental issues of their students and when these students are identified, they are not given the help they need. Also, many educators fear losing their job so they will not report issues and concerns with students. Having officers in our schools will not address these concerns. Instead of the American people discussing security in schools, we need to discuss the crisis in our public education system. What should come out of the sandy hook atrocity is a real discussion on how to improve the mental health of young people starting in preschool. Schools need to partnre with parents and provide parent workshops regarding the psychology of children and proper intervention practices. . Right now, statistics show that mental health counseling is not adequate on the k-6 level, especially in urban areas. We cannot expect that parents will parent well all of the time, we need to raise children in a community setting. I have worked in a school that was partnered with the Children's Aid Society. This is a wonderful model for all schools. My students were able to get all medical services in the building, including psychological care.
Tomasina Schwarz February 22, 2013 at 03:25 PM
This is a great model for all public schools. I was able to confer with my students counselor and refer my student to a counselor at any time! We need these changes, not an increase in security and police. Charter schools are a threat to community schools like this model, which means we are going in the wrong direction. I think if we focus the discussion on kids, not guns, we will solve more problems.


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