The latest regular session of the Moonachie Borough Council, held on May 25, 2023, unveiled decisions that have elicited mixed responses from the community, primarily revolving around student safety and fiscal management. Under the leadership of Mayor Vaccaro, the council navigated an agenda filled with far-reaching implications, the most contentious of which involved the deployment of Class III special law enforcement officers in local schools.
Ordinance #2023-5 was the centerpiece of this council session, proposing to hire retired law enforcement professionals as armed security in public schools and at official school events. While this move ostensibly aims to bolster school safety, it has drawn criticism in light of studies suggesting that the presence of police officers in schools does not necessarily make them safer. The National Education Association (NEA) also argues that such measures may lead to stricter disciplinary actions for minor infractions, which could have negative impacts on the student body.
In addition to this contentious safety initiative, the council displayed a keen interest in prudent fiscal management. However, the question of whether the resources allocated for the newly appointed Class III officers could be better used elsewhere remains a topic of debate. For instance, Mayor Vaccaro decided to postpone the discussion on utility bill audit service proposals, implying a need for meticulous review. Concurrently, the council initiated Ordinance #2023-6, proposing to exceed the Municipal Budget Appropriation Limits and establish a Cap Bank, in line with New Jersey legislation N.J.S.A. 40A: 4-45.14.
The council also introduced the 2023 budget, indicating a modest increase of $55 per average household or a 1.5% overall increase. While the Mayor praised the department’s efforts to curb budget costs amidst inflation, the allocation of funds towards armed school security in light of research suggesting its limited effectiveness, raises important questions about fiscal priorities.
The council also tackled numerous resolutions, including authorizing equipment purchases for the Fire Department and Police Department, renewing Plenary Retail Consumption Licenses, and appointing new part-time recreation staff. However, contracts for the Department of Public Works and the Police Chief were discussed behind closed doors.
As the council forges ahead, residents of Moonachie are left to question whether the latest measures will truly ensure a safer and more fiscally responsible community.