The needler in the haystack.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Will attack on preschool funding come to haunt Plainfield?


As a former Abbott District, Plainfield schools are mandated and funded for full-day free preschool.
Plainfielders may well be concerned about how the funding of the mandated preschools for the group of schools formerly known as the Abbott Districts will play out, what impact that will have locally, and whether the City may have to pony up for a $7M bond the Mayor supported without Council approval.

The Star-Ledger sounded the alarm in a February 1 editorial (see here) after Senate Republican surface a plan to cut preschool funding by $300 million (see here) and shift the monies to suburban schools.

A few days ago, my February NJ Monthly arrived and, lo and behold, there was a long article on the successes of NJ's preschool programs -- viewed as a national model -- and the dark clouds on the horizon raised by funding issues (the article is viewable online here).

As the Ledger editorializes, it WOULD BE CRAZY to cut back a program whose success at eroding the differences between outcomes for poorer and better-off kids is measurable.

The funding cuts Republicans are looking at (Christie has foxily avoided comment) would mean reducing preschool in the former Abbott Districts (including Plainfield) to half-day programs.

The hardship on parents would be horrendous. The loss of the gains already seen would be inevitable.

But there is YET ONE MORE POTENTIAL OUTCOME FOR PLAINFIELD that is troubling.



The $7M UCIA bond funded the construction of a handsome new center for the BUF program.

Back in 2007, I discovered that Mayor Robinson-Briggs had written a letter to the Union County Improvement Authority (UCIA) in support of a $7 million bond to build an additional new center for BUF's preschool programs at West 6th Street and Grant Avenue (see here).

This was after discovering that the required legal notice for the bond was run by the UCIA, curiously, in the Westfield Leader (see here), rather than the more widely read Star-Ledger. Could it have had anything to do with the fact that it would be far less noticed in the Leader? And less likely to raise eyebrows?

Upon further questioning, I wondered aloud if the City might be left on the hook should BUF ever default on the bonds (see here). At their September 27, 2007 meeting, the Freeholders were told by the County Counsel that, in fact, Plainfield MIGHT BE ON THE HOOK FOR THE BOND, but that the County certainly wasn't.

I was later told that the Mayor's letter alone could not bind the City, since she had failed to secure the Council's endorsement of the project by a resolution of support.

If the funding is cut and the local Plainfield preschool centers (see list 2010 list here; evidently not updated by Board of Ed yet) are forced to cut back to half days, the question of BUF's viability comes to front and center.

The Plainfield BUF, whose finances have been shaky for years, and is now totally on its own and not part of the larger BUF network, would be faced with an unrelenting bond payment schedule, despite falling financial resources.

Would the City of Plainfield -- meaning you-know-who, dear taxpayers -- be obligated for the bonds on the basis of the Mayor's letter of support?

We may yet get to find out.


-- Dan Damon [follow]

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4 comments:

YEP I SAID IT!!! said...

As I stated before . . .

Everything the Mayor Sharon RobinsonBriggs Touches Turns to MOLD!!!

RECALL HER!!!

Anonymous said...

Yet another example of how this so called Mayor knows nothing about the procedures necessary and required in City government. The Mayor can write all the letters she wants but she cannot put her signature on anything that requires an agreement or contract with prior approval of the City Council.

Anonymous said...

The commitment by the Mayor sounds an awful lot like her commitment for building costs at the new senior citizens center that costs over $250,000.

Anonymous said...

Get your fact right before you post ignorant blogs that paint inaccurate picture...for one thes bond though approved by ucia were private placement bonds..which mean that they were brough by proviate investors...any the case of default the onus of responsibility of repayment would be born solely on the back of BUF HHS CEO and their assets.

As to your assertion that the finances are shaky I doubt bonds would be sold to very savvy investors if BUF's finances where shaky...this is the problem with blogs like yours you spout out half truths or totally bs an you are never held accountable for misreporting.