Saturday, February 14, 2009

BOE, Council Face Money Decisions

On Tuesday, both the City Council and the Board of Education will hold voting meetings.

Looking at the agendas can be a bit disconcerting in the current economic climate.

While field trips are part of the school experience and professional development is mandated by the state Department of Education, the 30 pages of trips and conferences detailed in the BOE agenda come across as perhaps a bit excessive in these days of mass layoffs and severe budget cuts. There are several trips that have been arranged at no cost to the district, but others will run up a combined tab of more than $23,000. The professional development activities will cost more than $38,000.

The City Council will be asked to approve an application to the Urban Enterprise Zone Authority for an additional $6,000 for Music in the Plaza, bringing the cost for next summer to $36,000, or about what it costs for a new police hire. Officials have admitted that last summer's musical events in the Park-Madison plaza were poorly attended. Videos shown on Channel 74 feature City Hall staff dancing with each other, even though the goal was to bring employees of the county office building out on lunch hour in hopes they would patronize food vendors and merchants on the building's periphery.

Another item would allocate $7,600 for a Golden Gloves tournament next month.

One might ask, in a time when the city is in a budget crisis and the focus is on core services, how can sports and entertainment promotion at public expense be justified? The administration has floated a plan to lay off a single longtime employee just to save $10,000 and there was a big fuss over city-owned car use by the city administrator and Public Safety director at a projected cost of $1,200 each. The normal $28,000 a year in city funds to support the largely grant-funded Dudley House program became a deal-breaker this year. Yet music and boxing can be funded to the tune of $43,000?

Retailers know that individuals and families began having a visceral reaction to spending money starting last fall. Opening one's wallet has become a major exercise in judgment lately, as every discretionary purchase is being weighed against current and future needs. Municipalities elsewhere are laying off police and fire personnel, trying four-day weeks and making other drastic moves to save money. Is Plainfield being penny-wise and pound-foolish in its stewardship of public money?

Those with opinions pro or con can have a say at meetings Tuesday. The school board meeting is 7 p.m. at the Administration Building, 1200 Myrtle Ave. and the agenda is posted on the district's web site. The City Council meeting is 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave. The agenda may be seen at or can be picked up Tuesday in the City Clerk's office, 515 Watchung Ave.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mayor Robinson-Briggs has about $115,000 dollars in her reelection campaign account. Maybe she could donate that money to fund some of these events if she ends up getting dropped from the line.

8:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These field trips are for children and are paid for through the school's budget or fundraising. Where is the excess when it comes to our students having experiences outside of four walls? Professional development and training is also a part of the education of teachers. The BOE and the superintendent are taking proactive steps in dealing with budget issues.

To compare the City's financial woes and miststeps with the BOE is unfair.

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What happens to the money if the mayor does not get selected to run on the democratic line? Can she keep the money to run an independent race or does the money have to be given back to the donors? Does she get to keep the money for herself if she doesn't run? Can she give the money to anyone else? Does the county get to keep it? I wonder if assemblyman Green controls it.

5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spending on field trips for students and staff development for teachers and administrators is not a questionable expense for the BOE. How do these expenses end up in the same discussion about the city's paying for poorly attended music events and boxing matches?

7:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In these tight fiscal times it is important to discuss ALL spending because it affects all of us who live in town. If field trips are paid for through fundraising or if some come at no cost to the district, that isn't a problem. If field trips are truly educational and science, math, or language arts based, then that is okay. If some field trips are just to go to entertainment events at a cost to the district, like to the circus, then they shouldn't be taken. The circus should not be paid for by the district, that's a parents responsibility.

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When parents cannot pay it is the school's responsibility. Oh, I guess it will be easier to leave all of the poor kids home. No circus for them.

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is the school's responsibility to educate the children. In tough times, everyone should go to the museum or to some of the many other very low cost activities that are available. Most museums have a free time. I don't think that poor children (I was one myself) should not go to the circus, even though the circus is a big ripoff anyway. I am saying that it is not the school's responsibility. Public education is under threat in so many ways that it makes sense to focus on education rather than field trips. Too many people look at the school to do everything rather than taking the responsibility themselves.

7:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take the ones that can pay. Leave the rest of the ones behind. Tell them that their parents cannot afford it.

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a child, I might not have liked hearing "we can't afford it right now" but it taught me the value of the dollar. It also taught me that if I wanted something badly enough, I would have to work for it.

Maybe this is something we should be instilling in our children, instead of assuming the school should pay for it.

12:00 AM  

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