Wimberly, Spencer & Sumter Bill to Encourage School Districts to Make More Cost-Effective Choices on Property Lease Decisions Approved by Assembly

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Benjie Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic), L. Grace Spencer (D-Essex) and Shavonda Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic) to prohibit certain school districts under state intervention from leasing a building if the cost of the lease is greater than the building’s purchase price was approved Monday by the General Assembly.

“The intention of the bill is to ensure school districts are employing cost-effective principles when leasing or purchasing buildings for school administration use,” said Wimberly, who has taught in the Paterson School District for over 25 years. “We must take a good look at how much we are spending on renting. If we can save money that can be used on other needs such as books computers, recreational programs and infrastructure repairs, then that is what we should be doing.”

The bill (A-1882) would prohibit a school district under state control, which has not successfully met the governance component of school district effectiveness, or the state acting on its behalf, from leasing a building, if the total cost of the lease exceeds the purchase price of the building.

“Wasting money on long term leases while our schools and students are in need is shortsighted,” said Spencer. “If it makes more financial sense to purchase rather than lease a building, then school districts must explore these options before settling for a lease agreement that ends up costing more in the long run. Any money saved could be used to fund needs that are not being met.”

“It makes no sense to spend so much money on long term leases when programs are being cut and staff is being reduced because of funding shortages,” said Sumter. “School districts must use these funds wisely. When a building is available for purchase or for lease with the option to buy, a school district should consider these options first, before simply opting for a long term lease.”

The bill would take effect immediately.

The bill was approved 53-24-0 by the Assembly and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.