On September 11th, the members of the Hoboken Board of Education were asked to approve $268,000 in legal fees for the district. It was the most difficult vote during my year and a half on the board because more money spent on lawyer’s means less money in the classrooms. It was especially troublesome since I had been telling everyone that the legal costs for our 2000 student district were already excessive since the original budgeted amount was $161,000. So, why did I vote yes?
According to our most recent state audit our legal fees were 30 percent over the state average. In June, I presented a resolution to have a district goal of lowering our legal fees to ten percent below the county average. This, unfortunately, was rejected by the board majority. After much discussion, in our August meeting we passed a quantitative goal of capping legal fees to a ten percent reduction of the past three year average.
While I would have liked to see a more aggressive goal, I felt that this was a good start in reducing our costs. Then, at our last meeting, board members were asked to approve retroactive payments for legal work that had been performed but never paid. All together, the legal fees for our district over the last year amount to nearly twice the state average.
I wanted to vote “no” to express my displeasure over the situation; but, we must pay our bills. We also need to be more mindful of ways to contain costs. I wish to thank those members of the Board who expressed their concern for the taxpayers of Hoboken and suggested solutions to decrease our legal bills. With greater vigilance, money otherwise spent on lawyers can go towards students where it belongs.
Hoboken Board of Education Member