What IS the benefit to Plainfielders of Gov. Corzine's proposed pension payment deferral plan?
That was the question asked by Councilor Storch at last night's Council session after Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs verbally asked the Council's support of the payment deferral plan.
(I'm afraid I can't understand why the Mayor made a VERBAL request, since her conference call with Gov. Corzine and the state treasurer took place last Tuesday, January 27, the day after she told us about it at the Council's agenda session. With the Mayor's staff of three, and the City Administrator and his staff to turn to, Her Honor couldn't get a WRITTEN communication to the Council in six days? Never mind.)
The City Council is right to be sceptical of this 'fix' to local communities' fiscal problems.
As if we hadn't learned our lesson from the 'holiday' from pension payments granted under Gov. Whitman, which we then had to recover from with mandatory annual tax increases to restore our contributions to the plan to the 100% level. Talk about pain! Why would Plainfield knowingly get itself into this boat again?
Unless, of course, the thought is to get out of this year's difficulty and postpone the pain to another year -- and maybe another Mayor and Council?
While Plainfield's City Council wrestles with this issue, it would do well to keep another on its radar: state funding of the mandatory preschool program.
While the City is not responsible for the school district's budget or expenses, the schools are a major component of Plainfield taxpayers' bills and ought, at least, to be eyeballed when dealing with Plainfield's long-term fiscal issues.
BUF's new preschool (pictured above) is on target for completion by May or June, according to a foreman I spoke with when I took the picture in January.
You may have noticed in the press recently that the state had warned school districts that funding -- including that for the mandatory preschool program -- might be cut in the next year (see Asbury Park Press here, and Press of A.C. here, and a Ledger editorial here.)
The BUF building at Grant Avenue and West 6th Street is being built with a $7M Union County Improvement Authority (UCIA) bond issue, which I noted at the time (see here and here) that Plainfield -- per Union County's corporation counsel -- may be responsible for if BUF defaults.
As noted elsewhere, the UCIA gets the money back for its bonds by building the project then leasing it back to the entity for payments to cover the bond (see here).
So, if the State lifts the FUNDING of the preschool initiative but maintains its MANDATORY nature, where will the money come from to cover the additional expense?
Raise the Plainfield school district's levy in the next budget year? Hmmm...
If the State eases the MANDATORY nature of the preschool, what happens to the BUF program's expansion?
Will it come at the expense of the mom-and-pop preschools that have previously been serving the District's needs? (Read: More vacant properties and people out of work.)
It would be unthinkable that the new BUF structure would NOT be used, right?
But the Council may want to inquire about who backstops that bond issue, just in case.
- Press of A.C.: "NJ urges schools to freeze spending"
- Asbury Park Press: "Districts try to put brakes on spending"
- Ledger, editorial: "Schools get lesson in thrift"
- Plainfield Today: "$7M BUF bond may leave Plainfield on the hook"
- Plainfield Today: "Mayor pledges City's support for $7M UCIA bond you never heard of"
- CountyWatchers: "The UCIA: Understanding its budget"