A measure prohibiting state-controlled school districts like Paterson from leasing buildings if the cost of the lease is greater than the purchase price of the building cleared through the New Jersey state Assembly on Tuesday afternoon.
The bill approved in a 53-24 vote was introduced by Paterson’s assembly delegation – Assembly members Benjie Wimberly and Shavonda Sumter – and assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer. The bill now awaits consideration from the New Jersey Senate before it can be turned into law.
“The intention of the bill is to ensure school districts are employing cost-effective principles when leasing or purchasing buildings for school administration use,” Wimberly said.
Money saved by reducing traditional lease agreements with lease-purchase agreements could potentially result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings for the Paterson school district. Paterson spends $4 million on leased classroom space.
Wimberly said monies saved can be put to better use in purchasing books and computers, supporting recreation programs and infrastructure upgrades.
“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.”
School board members in the city lobbied both Wimberly and Sumter for the bill. Board member Jonathan Hodges has said the bill will allow Paterson to secure a new medical arts building close to St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center for Harp Academy, a top performing school focused on medical sciences.
“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,” Sumter said.