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Thursday, November 9, 2017

New School Board's first challenge likely to be fiscal, rather than educational

Fiscal issues may take first priority.


While Plainfield's newly elected Board of Education members may have high hopes of being able to tackle the challenges facing the District educationally once they take office in January, fiscal issues may force themselves to center stage first.

The District has been carrying a rolling deficit for years now, in spite of submitting technically "balanced" budgets to the Executive County Superintendent each year, as the law requires.

This practice, however, is becoming untenable. The shortfall figure I hear being mentioned for the 2017-18 year is in the neighborhood of $11 million.

Sooner or later, the shortfall has to be addressed. Will this be the year, and will this be the Board?

Any school funding solution worked out in Trenton is likely to change the basis on which Plainfield has operated for nearly twenty years now. State money will not be there to cover systemic shortfalls. Nor is there a likelihood that Plainfield taxpayers can absorb the entire amount.

It seems very likely that topics that will have to be faced, discussed and addressed include layoffs within the District's top-heavy administrative ranks, and possible privatization of a portion or portions of the non-teaching staff.

These will be difficult topics, and will put relations with the unionized staff to the test, but there will be no progress except to plow through.

Only after addressing these fiscal issues will the new Board really be able to take up the educational challenges facing the District.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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