LAKEWOOD — The Township spends about $1.5 million to provide trash pickup services for 110 private schools, two universities, churches, synagogues, and businesses in the downtown district, officials said. Though the administrative directive approving the free trash pickup dates back 15 years, the issue has once again drawn the ire of some residents.
Bill Hobday, a member of the township’s senior community, said he takes exception to the free services afforded private schools, churches and synagogues at the taxpayers’ expense. The township picks up trash from large Orthodox schools that rent their buildings for catered events outside school hours, Hobday said. “The taxpayer should not subsidize their businesses,” he said.
Steven Secare, the township attorney at the time the directive was approved, said the request for the free service was made by a number of private schools — non-Orthodox and Orthodox. “The Township Committee asked my advice at the time and I said if you do for one, do for all,” Secare said, referring to public and private schools. “At the time, (the township) had a huge (budget) surplus.”
Secare said many of the private schools first started in homes, so the township was picking up trash anyway. However, once a house changes to an exempt status, there are no taxes, said Tracey Tift, a school board member offended by the township’s policy. “Absolutely, it is not fair for the public schools to pay for trash pickup and the private schools get it for nothing,” Tift said. In 2010, township officials said the public schools should pay for trash pickup as a way to put the service cost under the correct account, said Township Committeeman Steven Langert, who was mayor at that time. Charging the public schools for trash pickup was a matter of moving the cost from the municipal budget to the school budget. “It was never about taking away free services,” Langert said.
Each year, when the budget process begins “everything is on the table,” including free trash pickup, Langert said. To date, there has been no support to change the policy, he said. A majority of the people who send their children to private schools are taxpayers, Langert said. “I have met with people about this issue and hear very passionate defense of both sides of the issue and both sides have merit,” he said. “There are points to be considered for both sides. There have been discussions on the committee level about that issue various times.”
Margaret F. Bonafide; 732-557-5734 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The private schools are all businesses. Trash disposal needs to be a budget item for every business. The Public Schools are not businesses, but they are forced to pay for disposal services from their budget. This is a big difference! What is going on? Why are taxpayers forced to subsidize the religious private schools and institutions while charging the Public Schools? The original legal advice from Attorney Secare was “The Township Committee asked my advice at the time and I said if you do for one, do for all,” Secare said, referring to public and private schools. This is just not right, and the ordinance needs to be amended ASAP to provide equal treatment across the board. I am not opposed to having trash disposal as a budget item for the Public Schools. That is where it belongs. However, the same goes for the Private Schools, houses of worship, and other not for profit businesses that are currently exempt from the cost of trash removal. These exempt categories also pay no property tax. Where is the fairness in that?
Mr Langert reportedly says, “A majority of the people who send their children to private schools are taxpayers, Langert said. “I have met with people about this issue and hear very passionate defense of both sides of the issue and both sides have merit,” he said. “There are points to be considered for both sides. There have been discussions on the committee level about that issue various times.” WOW! This is a distorted view of Municipal governance and financial ethics, to say the least. How many of the residents that are reading this article were part of, or even knew about the discussion? You are taxpayers, and you pay a great deal of money for the educational system and trash collection. One does not expect to subsidize religious private institutions.