Berkeley Township Councilman Jim Byrnes has so far been the only Ocean County Republican to vocally speak out against Senator Bob Singer’s state bailout of courtesy busing for private, religious schools in Lakewood.
“I need to congratulate Senator Singer for being creative and getting an additional $17 million of state state money to fund his busing in Lakewood for private schools,” a sarcastic Byrnes quipped at a recent township meeting.
Mr. Byrnes was referencing a bill recently signed by Governor Christie after being approved by the state legislature, that created a pilot program that will see state taxpayers fund a bailout of courtesy busing in Lakewood.
Private LLC To Be Given Taxpayer Dollars
The bill will see taxpayer dollars funneled into a private LLC named the Lakewood Student Transportation Authority. But don’t let the name fool you, despite the newly created organization being funded by taxpayers, since it is a private LLC, transparency laws like the Open Public Meetings & Records Acts do not apply to the consortium of private religious schools being given money under the program.
“This is one of those backdoor fundings [sic],” continued the councilman. “All of the sudden, Lakewood has a $12 million hole in their budget, and now the state, Governor Christie, signs $17 million additional for Lakewood busing to private schools.”
“This is what we need to watch, is where the back door money is going to come for funding these schools,” concluded Byrnes.
Kim Guadagno Couldn’t (Or Wouldn’t) Stop Christie
Councilman Byrnes’ public remarks were the continuation of what happened earlier in August at a political event in the township. When Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno was in town over at the Holiday City Diner for a campaign event, Republican sources present during the event said Byrnes made an impassioned plea during the event to Lieutenant Governor Guadagno to stop the governor from signing the bill, but Christie would later sign it anyway, despite Guadagno making statements to Byrnes that she wasn’t behind the bill.
Mayor Amato, Council Members Silent
Despite Councilman Byrnes’ continued criticism of the program since early August, none of his fellow council members nor Berkeley Mayor Carmen Amato appeared to share the councilman’s sentiment at the August township meeting.
The mayor, along with several council members, opined on Governor Christie’s proposed “School Fairness Formula” and noted how the plan would increase the amount of state aid for Berkeley’s local and regional school districts, but no other Berkeley officials spoke for or against the influential 30th district Republican state senator from
Island Heights Lakewood’s bill, which after receiving Governor Christie’s signature, is now law.