May 19, 2016
The Honorable Robert Singer
State Senator, 30th New Jersey Legislative District
1771 Madison Avenue, Suite 2 Lakewood, NJ 08701
RE: S-2049, A-3652 Dear Senator Singer:
Thank you for hosting the meeting on Tuesday, May 17, 2016 during which S2049 and its companion Assembly bill were discussed. At the conclusion of the meeting you requested that we submit suggestions for improvements to this proposed legislation. Attached to this letter are recommendations for the bill(s) along with a brief comment on each recommendation.
This legislation deserves to be considered in conjunction with other possibilities that exist to permanently solve the “bussing problem.” Had bussing routes been established using standards and norms common throughout the State of New Jersey the savings to the taxpayer could have been $11,000,000 or more. In contrast, we are now discussing a proposal that adds to the taxpayer burden at a time when the Board of Education has permitted the school district to operate at a deficit for several years in violation of State law.
The right to mandated bussing is undeniable. However, that right does not extend to usurping the opportunity for sound use of taxpayer money to accommodate personal preferences. Similarly, child safety for all school age children is equally important regardless of the school attended. Rather than “courtesy bussing” we should be discussing “safety related bussing.” There is a fundamental difference.
We look forward to meeting with you again as we all work together to resolve the public issues for which public funds can be properly used.
Bill Hobday Tom Gatti Pastor Glen Wilson
C: Assemblyman Rible (w/attachment) Assemblyman Kean (w/attachment) Senate and Assembly Education Committee Members (w/attachment) Commissioner Hespe (w/attachment)
COMMENTS and RECOMMENDATIONS: S-2049, A-3652
- The New Jersey Department of Education provide specific, written information on the formula used to establish the amount of transportation aid provided to the Lakewood school district. Comment. This information is essential in order to provide substantive projections of the potential cost of the proposed legislation.
- The New Jersey Department of Education provide a written list of all schools for which transportation is mandated per state law.
Comment: As noted during the meeting hosted by Senator Singer, the number of students being transported in Lakewood is unusually high. Given this burden it is imperative that it be confirmed that state or local transportation aid is limited to only those schools that legitimately qualify.
- That a grant model be used to process payments, i.e. upon receipt of detailed expense documentation and signed affidavits confirming the accuracy of said documents payment will be provided up to the authorized limit.
Comment: Many grant programs provide partial payment up front for cash flow purposes. The trial nature of the proposal, and the requirement that the NJDOE Commissioner offer a written report at the conclusion of the trial dictates that appropriate mechanisms be put in place to effectively measure actual expenditures and performance.
- The Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education appoint a five-member oversight board for the purpose of gathering and evaluating the information that will be needed in order for the Commission to submit the required assessment at the conclusion of the trail period.
Comment. It is suggested that the district transportation coordinator serve as the ex-officio (and non-voting) sixth member of the oversight board for the purpose of scheduling meetings and documenting those meeting. It is also recommended that the Commissioner solicit nominations for the Oversight Board from a variety of established citizen groups.
- Specific eligibility and membership criteria for the proposed consortium be included in the proposed legislation.
Comment. This is essential to insure equitable access to the consortium and to insure that public funds are used for public purposes.
- Members of the consortium must commit to participate for a period equal to the length to the proposed trial.
Comment. At present the proposed trail period is three years. It has been suggested that the consortium can reduce costs through multi-year contracts. If multi-year contracts are established then it is incumbent that the student ridership be available for the same period of time.
- As part of the proposed trial project, the Lakewood Board of Education be given the opportunity to bid and execute contracts for multiple years. Comment: If savings can be achieved through multi-year contracts, as has been suggested, then the same opportunity should be provided to the Lakewood School District.
- If the consortium engages in any non-mandated bussing then it must also provide non-mandated bussing to all Lakewood school students. Equitable use of public funds and the safety all of children is paramount.
- The legislation include a grant of a least $4,000,000 to Lakewood Township that is specifically dedicated to enhancing child safety through capital improvements.
Comment. In a manner similar to Toms River and other municipalities the number of children needing to be bussed for safety reasons can be reduced through installation of sidewalks, street light and other capital improvements.
- The structure, content and administrative procedures of the Consortium that are related to the use of public funds be approved by the New Jersey Commissioner of Education.
Comment. In a manner consistent with municipal, county and state contracting protocols it is important that corporate structure and ownership be identified, and, matters such as workers’ compensation insurance, minimum records requirements, bonding requirements, etc. are fully met.