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Educational Facilities Authority Gets New Executive Director

James Poole brings wealth of public finance experience to new post at EFA.

It’s the other schools construction authority in New Jersey, the one that has quietly financed close to $1 billion a year in new projects for the state’s colleges and universities. And it’s about to get a new chief.

The New Jersey Educational Facilities Authority (EFA) yesterday named James Poole to be its next executive director, grabbing him from the better-known Schools Development Authority (SDA), which handles preschool and K-12 projects.

Poole, who was making $126,000 at the SDA as a senior director, will move up to $140,000 at the EFA, according to the board’s resolution. The choice still needs final approval from Gov. Chris Christie.

Public Finance

Poole brings to the EFA a long history in public finance, most recently heading procurement for the SDA. Before that, he was director of the state Treasurer’s Office of Public Finance.

"Our clients will be well served by Jim’s vast experience in the municipal markets and knowledge of credit considerations, especially with complex financing structures," said Roger Jacobs, the EFA’s chairman, in a statement.

Poole’s appointment comes at a time when school construction in all its forms is getting new attention in New Jersey.

The EFA’s main function is in helping package bond issues for college and university projects. Since its creation in 1966, it has overseen nearly 450 issues totaling more than $12 billion.

In its latest annual report released last month, the amount of issues and dollars borrowed have dropped significantly, due to the economic downturn. Six issues closed in 2009 for a total of $490 million, the vast majority in refinancings. The EFA's new construction projects include a $27 million residence hall at Montclair State University.

But as higher education leaders have continued to press for more state help in meeting their escalating facilities needs, one said that Poole joins the EFA at an important time for New Jersey’s public colleges and universities.

"It is good to have a stable agency there, and have someone there with the confidence of the board,” said Darryl Greer, executive director of the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities. "This is really the principal agency in bringing our projects to the market."

Leaving the SDA

Meanwhile, Poole will be leaving an agency that is at a crossroads, dramatically slowing in the last year in its primary role of overseeing school projects in the state’s neediest cities.

With no new work under way in 2010, the SDA halted a list of more than 50 projects that had been given the green light under the former administration. They are now under review as to whether they should remain top priorities.

The Christie administration has reduced staff at the SDA by about 10 percent in 2010. The governor last week said further cuts may be coming.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a correction on the total value of issues the EFA has overseen.

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