Assemblywoman Marcia Karrow and Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose today said the Corzine Administration’s new school funding formula should be discarded and replaced with an equitable plan that does not reward school districts like Union City which has mismanaged and wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money. Among other things, the audit revealed that the school district pays $13,000 a month for 39 cell phones for bus drivers which equates to $345/month per each cell phone.
2007 audit results of the Union City School District, obtained by Karrow and McHose, members of the Assembly Budget Committee, through the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), revealed numerous examples of questionable and wasteful spending practices, including significant overtime pay to bus drivers. Those same drivers receive six hours of overtime pay each month to charge their cell phones.
Other wasteful spending includes a $26,097 monthly payment for website development, $11,600 in advertising costs to promote the opening of a new school, $9,268 for hotel expenses for an out-of-state administrative retreat, $2,600 for a staff party, $2,315 for a student field trip to the Medieval Times, and $1,716 for a wall-mounted LCD Flat Panel TV for a Human Resources office.
Karrow, R-Hunterdon and Warren, said she was horrified to learn that at least five Union City School District bus drivers were paid anywhere from $39,000 to $73,000 in overtime, accounting for 167 percent to 237 percent of their base pay.
“Mr. Corzine and his Democrat allies rammed a new, but clearly flawed school funding formula through the lame duck session of the Legislature in January which rewards school districts like Union City, which is mismanaging and wasting precious tax dollars,” she said. “The governor needs to explain to taxpayers why he approved such an inequitable formula which leaves most suburban and rural school districts with very little aid yet increases state monies to urban districts where waste is rampant.”
Union City is slated to receive $149.227 million in state education aid for Fiscal Year 2008-2009, an increase of $20.433 million over the $128.794 million it was awarded for FY 2007-2008.
McHose, R-Sussex, Morris and Hunterdon, noting that the Union City School District currently receives 75 percent of its total funding from state taxpayers, said it is mind-boggling that the state would continue to pour millions of dollars into a district that has little regard for how it spends that money.
“Union City is just the tip of the iceberg,” she said. “Why should our hardworking taxpayers all over the state continue to pay for such blatant waste in Abbott school districts and then have Trenton, year after year, rake them over the coals for more money due to yet another flawed school funding formula?”
McHose, adding that state aid to education accounts for about $8 billion of the total state budget, said, “It is this kind of questionable and unnecessary spending that the Administration needs to address before it arbitrarily proposes budget cuts. State spending cuts are absolutely necessary, but they should be fair, however, with an inequitable school funding formula that isn’t possible. The responsible thing to do is to go back to the drawing board.”