School Crossing Guards Are Latest on Budget Chopping Blocks


In Garfield, N.J., a school crossing guard only costs taxpayers about $60 a day.

But that's more than Garfield can afford.

"We would like to see all our crossing posts stay," admitted Police Chief Kevin Amos, who runs the program. But he said 24 out of 43 positions have to go, under orders from the City Manager and Council.

"You gotta do like an exorcist thing," said crossing guard Michael Patti, 45, describing how he has to twist and turn his body during his three and a half hours of morning/afternoon duty.

Patti is losing his job, although a guard elsewhere will be transferred to his post. But he worries he or she won't have the stamina and alertness to do the job he does at the busy intersection, where hundreds of students pass through twice a day.

"I gotta watch my back, the kids, I gotta watch everything," Patti said, and added "I gotta do a 360 (degree swivel) every day."

Chief Amos said guards are being eliminated at crossings with the fewest number of students, as well as wherever there is a stoplight.

Having no guards at stoplights would seem to make sense, although at Ray and Lanza Streets, just a few yards from the Middle School, the Chief has had two guards working along with the stoplight, because it gets so busy.

Mayor Frank Calandriello said "We're fighting a horrible crunch" with the budget, especially after losing $550,000 in state aid because of the budget hole Governor Chris Christie has to deal with.

He noted nearby towns make do with half the crossing guards Garfield does, and by way of example, that he and the council are taking 33 percent pay cuts from their own $7500 a year salaries.

And yet, "At the end of the day we're still gonna be raising taxes," said Mayor Calandriello.

"We were even willing to take a pay cut," said Guard Patti. The Mayor said that's still under study.

Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY

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