You’ve got to hand it to GOP gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli: he didn’t pull a Murphy. When asked for his opinion about Lakewood district attorney Michael Inzelbuch’s compensation of $4 million over the last three years, the Governor deflected, murmuring that he had “no insight” into the district’s finances but offered that the salary was “eye-popping.”
But Ciattarelli called Murphy’s bluff. During an interview with the Asbury Park Press Editorial Board, he replied, “that’s excess compensation and that Board of Education needs to be held accountable” and labeled Inzelbuch’s salary a “fundamental problem.” He also noted –fairly–that New Jersey’s school funding formula doesn’t work in a district with 30,000 ultra-Orthodox students who attend private Jewish day schools but must be transported there and back at district expense. In addition, some of those students are eligible for special education services, also at on the district’s dime. (For number-crunchers, Lakewood, which has about 6,000 in-district students, pays $51,643,425 in annual tuition to non-district schools and $35,172,516 for transportation, out of a total operating budget of $207,445,821.)
Question: who holds the Board accountable? Not the State Department of Education, which has placed a fiscal monitor in Lakewood for over a decade at taxpayer expense. Not Governor Murphy. Not other Lakewood leaders, who defer at every turn to the Vaad, a committee of eleven ultra-Orthodox men who control voting and, therefore, politics.
Not Senator Bob Singer of the 30th Legislative District, who represents Lakewood: Democrat Amy Cores, his opponent in the coming election (who doesn’t have a chance because the Vaad will tell everyone to back Singer), says Singer has close financial ties to prominent Lakewood developers and “acquieses to the status quo.”
The Press notes that Lakewood Public Schools “is tens of millions of dollars in debt and depends upon loans from the state to close ever-expanding operating budget gaps.” In other words, every New Jersey resident paid for Inzelbuch’s exhorbitant compensation and will continue to do so until someone –at the State Education Department or at the Governor’s Office–takes a stand.