More than 25 cents out of every $1. …

That’s how much spending auditors said was “unnecessary, excessive or lacking documentation” by Abbott school districts.

From our friends at inthelobby.net

Actually, that’s more than 25 cents out of every tax dollar.

Now, under normal circumstances, learning that the Plainfield school district tried to justify spending $504 on the private rental of a skating park for 144 students by saying students are learning math because they “will have to judge speed, radius of the ring,” would make us laugh out loud.

But these are not normal circumstances.

These are circumstances where Trenton is all but urging the Turnpike Authority to go ahead and raise the tolls.

These are circumstances where as soon as the governor gets done with the state budget, he’s going to unveil “Son of Toll Hike” and try to ram it through the Legislature.

And these are circumstances that despite almost daily pleading for lawmakers to do something to attack the waste in the state budget, to ferret out abuse, and to reform the pension system, there’s more talk about how they have to raises tolls or the gas tax, then there is to recoup tax dollars.

So reading in the Star Ledger that auditors uncovered $83 million in questionable expenditures in the Abbott school districts was nothing to laugh about.

Not when school districts can be so cavalier with our tax dollars that:
  • The Orange Board of Education spent $3,100 in tax dollars for a Christmas party for teachers and support staff;
  • Irvington spent  $6,421 for a school board retreat in Atlantic City; while another 250 purchase orders in Irvington totaling more than $15.5 million were not supported with invoices;
  • In East Orange, the district spent $10,836 for a superintendent’s convocation; $23,834 for 14 Dell laptop computers for board members, and $753 to cover the cost of 34 cakes — with no explanation as to why the cakes were purchased; and
  • Gloucester City spent $6,000 for meals for teachers and administrators.
Now, individually, these might not be large expenditures.

But taken together, what they add up to is the New Jersey taxpayer’s lament. They add up to the fact that our state suffers from a careless disregard of tax dollars.  New Jersey’s government, on all levels, has either forgotten who is paying the bills – or, worse yet, they simply don’t care.

Not every taxpayer or the company they work for can afford Christmas parties.  Not every taxpayer can afford laptop computers.  Not every taxpayer can afford a retreat in Atlantic City.

And one of the reasons they can’t is because the residents of New Jersey are paying too much in taxes.

And we are paying too much because some school districts and municipalities and counties and state agencies and departments forget that every dollar they spend, is a dollar that comes from a family – they forget that every dollar they spend is a dollar less that their neighbor can spend on themselves.

Instead, we hear how the Pleasantville School District is under investigation by the federal government. The Asbury Park School District is under investigation by the state.

And we learn that more than 25 cents out of every dollar that we send to Abbott school districts were  “unnecessary, excessive or lacking documentation.” That $83 million that the auditors cited could keep the state parks open.  It could keep the Department of Agriculture open.  It could go to bridge or road repair.
And when you add that $83 million to the all the other documented waste out there – like the $1.2 billion in MVC surcharges that the state hasn’t collected or the millions it spends unnecessarily in Medicaid or the millions it has spent on school construction – it is appalling that Trenton has the audacity to tell us they need more of our money, without lifting a finger to recoup all the other money that has been taken from us, that hasn’t been spent wisely or well.

We are not naïve. We know that we have to repair the roads and bridges.  We know that we have to pay down the debt, and pay for schools and hospitals and those who need our help. But we are also not fools.  Until they try to recoup what has been wasted, until they show more concern for the taxpayers who pay the bills than their political pals or the special interests they cater to, it makes no sense to give Trenton more of our money, because they don’t respect or honor what they already have.

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