RIBLE SHOCKED BY FINDINGS OF ADDITIONAL ABBOTT SCHOOL SPENDING AUDITS

CALL $4,280 FOR GOLF SHIRTS IN ASBURY PARK AN UNACCEPTABLE EXPENSE

“Something is clearly wrong here and it is time that the officials responsible for this spending be held accountable.”

By the way – The audits of all 31 Abbott districts can be found right here at
www.state.nj.us/education
in the finance section. Just for the heck of it, trenton1


Assemblyman David Rible today said earlier this week he was shocked by some of the findings revealed in additional audits of Abbott school districts that were released just one month after an audit of the Union City school district uncovered egregious examples of waste and abuse of tax dollars in that district.

“New Jersey taxpayers send a disproportionate amount of their tax dollars into the 31 Abbott Districts in order to provide a thorough and efficient education for students in those districts,” said Rible, R-Monmouth. “While it has never been demonstrated that the spending in these districts actually results in a better education for students, it has clearly been demonstrated that it results in poor spending decisions and rampant waste and abuse of tax dollars.”

A story in the Sunday edition of the Gloucester County Times reported the findings of a number of audits of Abbott school districts conducted by KPMG LLP in New York. Previously, only the results of the Union City school district audit had been released by the state Department of Education.

Among the findings were that Bridgeton school officials spent more than $10,000 to send staff to conferences, including some in Atlanta, Ohio, Orlando and San Diego, and paid $1,383 to send students to a Double Dutch jump rope competition in South Carolina.

The auditors also discovered that Asbury Park paid $4,280 for golf shirts and jackets for athletic coaches while Gloucester City paid $6,116 for rain jackets for the football team. The Phillipsburg School District used $15,085 to buy banners for their 100th anniversary football game and their 100th game with rival Easton.

Rible noted that in recent years 56 percent of state school aid has gone to the 31 Abbott school districts while the other 580 districts have had to share the remaining 44 percent of that aid.

“We should be doing everything we can to provide a quality education for children in every school district in this state,” Rible said. “But someone will need to explain why school kids in suburban and rural districts have been getting short-changed for the past six years while the Abbott districts can pay for fancy golf shirts and $15,000 football game banners.”

“Something is clearly wrong here and it is time that the officials responsible for this spending be held accountable.”

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Union City: School district poster child for waste

Lawmakers under rare but strict orders to cut government spending fumed Thursday after an audit revealed a slew of wasteful spending at the Union City school district, including paying school bus drivers six hours of overtime a month to charge their cell phones.

Assemblywomen Marcia Karrow, R-Hunterdon, and Alison Littell McHose, R-Sussex, obtained the audit before Thursday’s Assembly Budget Committee hearing where state Education Commissioner Lucille Davy testified on the department’s budget.

The audit, which covered three school years ending in 2006, revealed the Abbott district paid $345 per month for each of 39 cell phones and paid bus drivers six hours of overtime a month to charge them. Five drivers were paid overtime ranging from $39,000 to $73,000 per year. Other spending showed $1,700 for a LCD television in the human resources office and $11,600 to advertise a new school opening.

Republicans used the audit to complain about the state’s school funding formula, which is slated to send $149.2 million to Union City this coming year, compared with a local tax levy of $15.4 million, and the power wielded by Union City Mayor and state Sen. Brian Stack, D-Hudson, who appoints the city’s school board. But it also drew bipartisan outrage.

“It was never once my intention with that formula to give a bus driver overtime to plug in a cell phone,” said Assemblyman Louis Greenwald, D-Camden, the budget committee chairman. “That is beyond the pale. It is outrageous. It is offensive. It is what everyone is frustrated with in government.”

Karrow asked what the Education Department was going to do about the situation.

“If these were my employees and I gave them cell phones and they didn’t charge them up and there was kid left behind on a bus or I needed some help or if there was a delayed opening, I’d fire them instead of giving them overtime to keep them charged,” Karrow said.

Davy said the arrangement was part of a contract between the district and drivers and that the schools superintendent, who came to the district after the contract was in place, was renegotiating it and implementing other reforms highlighted in the audit, which was given to the district last fall.

“We agree it is not appropriate, but there was a contract that was negotiated,” Davy said. “We’ll have to look at what we can do, if anything.”

The audit was one of 25 commissioned by the state at a cost of $370,000 a piece. Officials said the audits have led to greater scrutiny and oversight of districts as well as pointed out places to look for inefficiencies.

The tenor became partisan when Karrow questioned the whole setup in which Stack, a grandfathered dual office holder, appoints the school board and holds senatorial courtesy over the county superintendent empowered to oversee this type of spending.

“Who is watching the henhouse here?” Karrow said.

Stack couldn’t be reached at his Senate or mayoral offices Thursday afternoon.

Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, D-Union, the Democratic Party state chairman, tried to temper the partisanship by noting waste and corruption occurs throughout the state.

“None of us like it, but this isn’t unique to one school district, or one type of school district,” said Cryan, adding “what this really is, here, is a bad contract.”

Republicans on the Senate budget committee, which had a hearing with Davy Monday, asked for another meeting with the commissioner about the audit.

Gregory J. Volpe: gvolpe@gannett.com

Our tax dollars at work: Union City school bus drivers are paid 6 hours of overtime each month to charge their cell phones.

  • One bus driver in the 05-06 school year earned $73,125 in overtime, which accounted for 237% of the driver’s base pay. In other words, the driver earned over $100,000 in wages that year.
  • $32,302 was sent to a DC law firm to help the district secure grants
  • Taxpayers spent $9,268 for hotel expenses incurred for an out-of-state administrative retreat.
  • A “Cocktail Dinner” for 50 people at the Old Tapas Restaurant — $1,150. “Food for staff.”
  • $2,268 to the Sheraton Edison Hotel back in February 2005, which paid the tab for students and two teachers. According to the audit report, no agenda was found and they were unable to determine the purpose or necessity of the trip.

There’s more and DOE commissioner Lucille Davy is to – she better – get grilled today.

Read the article here from our friends at NJ101.5