Paterson Top Stories

School District Spending About $100,000 on Legal Department Offices

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PATERSON, NJ – City education officials have spent close to $100,000 on office renovations for Paterson Public Schools’ legal department at 90 Delaware Avenue, according to district officials.

That includes $25,000 in “build-up” expenses like the walls and toilets, $25,000 for the floors and carpeting and $42,000 in staff expenses, most of which was overtime pay, Facilities Executive Director Chris Sapara-Grant told the Board of Education last week. The work is still ongoing, but Sapara-Grant said he did not expect the cost of the project to get much greater.

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“We have to use the money more wisely,’’ said board member Alex Mendez, chairman of the facilities committee. “I’m definitely not comfortable with this type of money spent on central offices.’’

State-appointed superintendent Donnie Evans said that none of the money used on the legal offices had been reallocated from plans to repair schools.

But school board member Errol Kerr said the district’s resources were so limited that spending on the administrative offices had to limit the amount of money available for work at the schools. “We’re talking about $100,000 as if it’s just a dollar,’’ said Kerr. “A hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money. If we use $100,000 it has to come from somewhere.’’

The offices renovations come as the district continues to expand its legal department. After going almost two years without an in-house general counsel, officials filled that position last summer. In January, the district added a paralegal for $51,000 and now is in the process of hiring a deputy counsel for a salary between $120,000 and $150,000.

Administration officials told the school board that the work on the new second-floor legal offices was designed to allow the department to work more efficiently by bringing offices that are currently scattered around the building together.

After the renovations, the legal department would have private offices for six staff members, a main conference room, a central area for secretaries and a reception area.

Board President Christopher Irving told Evans that part of the problem with the office work was that the renovations were being done instead of much-needed school repairs. He urged the district to stop using workers on overtime for the project.

But officials said that using facilities staff on the legal offices during regular hours simply would mean that they would have to work overtime to perform other duties. Either way, Sapara-Grant said, the cost to the district ends up being about the same.

Sapara-Grant did not mention any furniture expenses during his presentation to the board. When asked about it afterwards, he said the district probably would assign desks and other items that it already has in-house.

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