Hoboken resident Joshua Sotomayor Einstein submitted the following OpEd to Hudson TV in which he opposes the construction of a new, Hoboken High School:
The plan to rush a late January special election on whether the Hoboken BOE should borrow $241 million dollars (the taxpayer is liable for) to build a new high school is a bad idea. With a capacity of 1,200, the proposed new high school would replace the current building built in 1962 with a capacity of 1,500. The fact that there are only 310 current high school students from Hoboken, with another roughly 123 students from the county choice program, is demonstrable evidence there is no need for a new building. While the boosters of this needless spending spree have presented only the positive possible outcomes, it is important the people know the true likely costs of engaging in a massive physical infrastructure project adjacent to Columbus Park.
First, the plan will put in danger the early childhood education program so many in Hoboken love. As a school district in receipt of aid (formerly known as Abbot Districts), Hoboken receives millions of dollars from the state. Support for redistributing funds from the suburbs to urban districts has been on the wane for years. Indeed, funding is forecast to continue to shrink as many in Trenton in both parties represent voters who do not want to pay for education outside their towns. At the creation of the now formerly Abbot Districts, the premise was that these places needed exceptional assistance to equitably fund education. If Hoboken’s BOE bonds (ie borrows) $241 million for a capital campaign, the anti-aid chorus will grow. Their argument – that if Hoboken can afford $241 million dollars on a new high school it doesn’t need state taxpayer aid, will be impossible to refute and either the Hoboken BOE will implement cuts in early childhood education or BOE taxes will need to skyrocket to cover the shortfall.
Second is the impact raising taxes will have on the cost of living for Hoboken’s shrinking middle class. Economically, many in Hoboken are blessed, but not everyone is living the highlife. Hoboken is equally a town of mom and pop resident landlords, hardworking teachers, public employees, entrepreneurs, middle management, retirees, and more. Propogandists for the spending spree argue the average tax increase would “only” be between $400 and $500 a year as if this was the sole expense the middle class must deal with. With rising cost of living, increased Business Alliance taxes, last year’s BOE taxes hike, likely state/county/municipal tax increases, increased parking tickets, and more, the reality is that with every cost increase residents who fall between public housing and those who can afford a $4 million rowhouse are being pushed out.
Moreover, while the Hoboken BOE may be improving education, a new building provides no incentive for the family that owns a multimillion dollar home and sends their child to an elite private school with a great track record to switch schools. Rather, middle class families stretching dollars to send their child to a nearby parochial school are the ones most likely to be attracted to the public schools. By continuing to make merely existing in Hoboken more expensive (in part by repeatedly increasing BOE taxes), more of those middle class families that might put their kids into public schools are likely to move to the suburbs where they will get more bang for their buck across the board.
Finally, there is the fact that the plan is bad for the environment. Building a new high school will cover open space and add to the Board of Education’s carbon footprint. In Hoboken, homeowners must fight tooth and nail to build a deck that covers just a tiny portion of their own back yard – yet despite there being an 2/3rd empty high school currently in existence supporters of the plan want to eliminate the open space that is the current football field and track. Just as importantly, these bad idea boosters want the public to forget their many years of getting projected increases in student enrollment wrong (for example, in 2020 they overestimated total projected enrollment by roughly 276 students). The boosters of this plan counterfactually argue that Hoboken enrollment is not in line with the normal historical variation and thus the football field and track must be destroyed for a new building. The proposed plans for the new facility look nice, but the overabundance of space in the current high school and the massive carbon footprint that building the proposed facility has means it’s a net negative for the environment and open space in Hoboken.
Because Hoboken is a green town that cares about the environment, residents who want to preserve open space and limit our carbon footprint should say no. Because the shrinking middle class (who are the most likely to add their kids to the Public Schools) must be protected from predatory and punitive cost of living increases including taxes, Hoboken residents who care about equity and building an economically diverse community should say no. Because it puts the early childhood education program in danger, Hoboken residents and parents who cherish these programs should say no. Because the boosters of this spending spree claim out of one side of their mouths that the current high school building is out of date and out of the other side that they want to turn that very same building into a middle school, all residents of Hoboken should say no. Because they are attempting to push through public meetings on the plan during the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s vortex to dampen public opposition, people who want good government in Hoboken should say no. For all these reasons and more, Hoboken should say no to the Board of Education’s $241 million wasteful spending plan.