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NJSBA Thanks Governor for Vetoing Restriction on School Savings

TRENTON, Aug. 21, 2013—The Executive Director of the New Jersey School Boards Association today thanked Gov. Chris Christie for Monday’s veto of union-backed legislation (S-1191) that would have created barriers to school district efforts to save taxpayer funds by subcontracting services.

“This bill would have restricted the ability of local school boards to use subcontracting of non-instructional services, such as transportation, cafeteria and custodial services, to support classroom activities and to rein in local property taxes,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director. “We appreciate Gov. Christie’s rejection of S-1191.”

Feinsod noted that S-1191 represented the third major piece of legislation that was opposed by NJSBA and which the Governor rejected recently. In late June, he vetoed S-968, which would have also restricted subcontracting by school districts and local governments. On July 18, the Governor rejected S-2163, which would have given tenure-like protection to non-teaching staff members.

S-1191, the bill vetoed on Monday, would have prohibited subcontracting during the term of a collective bargaining agreement and would have required that school boards negotiate over the impact of subcontracting services. These provisions would have effectively restricted school districts from using subcontracting of non-instructional services as a financial strategy in emergency situations and as a tool in financial planning for the district, according to NJSBA.

In an NJSBA survey, school district administrators cited annual savings of more than $34 million through the subcontracting of non-instructional services. They applied the savings to property tax relief/budget reduction, hiring and retaining instructional staff, educational programs, and classroom supplies and equipment.

NJSBA research has also found that the vast majority of school boards make accommodations for existing employees when implementing subcontracting. Such arrangements have included guaranteed employment with the subcontractor; retention of salary and benefit levels; negotiated severance; continuation of health insurance; the right to a job interview with subcontractor; retaining of employees who are approaching retirement; and/or contracting services only as employees resign or retire.

These types of provisions are far more generous than those typically found in the private sector, according to NJSBA.

S-1191 also would have created a five-county pilot program to create a purchasing system for custodial or food services, or both, for school districts. The counties identified in the legislation were Camden, Gloucester, Middlesex, Passaic and Union.

The legislation’s provisions would have granted counties the unprecedented authority to make important managerial decisions on behalf of local school districts, according to NJSBA. Individual school systems would have been required to participate in the arrangements, even if they were already securing the non-instructional services at less cost through subcontracting.

“NJSBA supports shared-service arrangements that save taxpayer money and improve delivery. However, this provision merely represented another way to restrict school boards’ ability to save limited resources through subcontracting,” explained Feinsod.

The New Jersey School Boards Association is a federation of 581 local boards of education and includes 81 charter school associate members. NJSBA provides training, advocacy and support to advance public education and promote the achievement of all students through effective governance.