Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Board of Ed's proposed rent to charter school raises eyebrows

Plainfield's Lincoln School occupies the entire block
of Berckman Street between East 2nd and East 3rd. (Google)
Plainfield's Board of Ed is proposing to lease the now-vacant Lincoln School at Berckman and East Third Streets for a rent that is an absolute steal, given what Plainfield's other charter schools are paying to rent their spaces.

A resolution to lease the property for FOURTEEN months for $122,000 ($104,571 for TWELVE months), exclusive of utilities, was presented at Tuesday's Board of Ed meeting.

Despite the building's age (it is over a hundred years old), it has been thoroughly updated and is spacious, airy and well-maintained throughout. The only negative I can think of is that there is no elevator (as I recall, having not been inside for a couple of years).

It has had various uses over the last decade or so, the most recent being to house the Barack Obama Academy. Moving that school to the old Jefferson School building on Myrtle Avenue has left the Lincoln School vacant.

This may be a win-win for the district (income from an empty facility) and the Barack Obama Green Charter High School (room to grow), but the rental fee should cause raised eyebrows.

Maria Pellum recently posted the annual rent figures (for 2010) for three of Plainfield's four charter schools (see her post here).

Barack Obama Green Charter High School only opened this year and its report is not yet available.)

Here is what she found --

School 2010 Rent
Central Jersey Arts CS $655,319
Queen City Academy CS $329,000
Union County TEAMS CS $475,274¹
¹ Includes $62,401 for building maintenance.

I know this is just a raw comparison, which should be fine-tuned with comparisons of number of classrooms, square footage, and amenities; nevertheless, one has to wonder how the Board of Ed arrived at the proposed rent, and if it is supposed to be 'market rate', who did the rent comparisons.

Seems to me this will be hard to justify given both the fiscal constraints the District is facing and the actual going rents for charter schools in Plainfield.

Or am I being unfair? And if so, to whom?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Bob said...

I thought we voted out many of the crooks who were on the BOE. I guess not. I hope we get to see the comparables, which will probably show that someone is being dishonest and the rent should be $40,000 to $60,000 more than it currently is. Someone is getting their palm greased. Welcome to the Soprano City.

Anonymous said...

You are not being unfair at all. One really stands out is the amount of "rent" these charter schools are paying period. Almost 3 quarters of a million dollars for Central Jersey Arts Charter School alone! One must realize that this money is PUBLIC MONEY that comes directly from the state's educational coffers and are not being used for direct instructional purposes. It is a travesty.

The only point that I can see of ANY benefit (and it is a small one at that) would be that at least some money is coming back into the Plainfield district by having rent being paid. But it seems that it is just like switching money from one hand to the other.

As for Central Jersey Arts Charter School, that place should have been shut down a long time ago. I have been talking to a lot of parents and even some people who work there. There are some really questionable practices going on there and many students and teachers are leaving. It will be interesting to see how much longer this place will be allowed to continue.

Anonymous said...

Agreed ! Charter school rent is normally overpriced in Plainfield! The school got a fair deal and it is awesome that they want to work with the district. I have only heard great things as their students line the street with green blazers. Plainfield is moving on up!

Anonymous said...

The PMUA pays $200k per year for approx. 1/5 the space on the Park Ave building - excuse me, office space.

The owner of that building has a sweet deal!