BOE, Council Face Money Decisions
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 www.rashidburney.com or can be picked up Tuesday in the City Clerk's office, 515 Watchung Ave.