It's time I start addressing the various questions, rumors, misconceptions, confusions and other impediments to supporting Referendum 09. I thought I'd start with the perennial favorite: Why now? With this economy, this is the wrong time to ask for $48 million.
My position is, this is precisely the right time, I daresay the best time for this referendum.
First of all, as I mentioned before, we are well aware that we're in a recession. I realize Ridgewood is in trouble. I know that many Ridgewood families are struggling. My own family has been struggling through layoffs and unemployment. This is absolutely not about the "haves" on the BOE being oblivious to the struggles of the "have nots." But to put it bluntly, the Board of Ed is not charged with lowering taxes or improving the business climate. The BOE is charged with one thing: educating the children of Ridgewood. That must be our priority. And in order to do the best we can for all our children we need to take care of our physical assets -- the buildings.
Right now, interest rates are low...money can be borrowed at much more favorable rates than in the past and the future. As one friend of mine said, "they're having a sale on money, and we should get some!" If we go out for a bond now, when rates are low, our total cost will be much lower than itr would be if we wait till interest rates start going up again. This will save Ridgewood taxpayers' money.
Right now, construction costs are low. Contractors and builders are hurting. They want work. Gone are the days when you couldn't get a contractor to return your phone calls, because they didn't need your business. When we go out to bid for the projects in this referendum, we will see competitive bids like we haven't seen in decades. Planning for construction now, when prices are low, will save Ridgewood taxpayers thousands of dollars.
Right now, the state of New Jersey has awarded us almost $10 million in grants, and over $2 million in debt service aid. If the Referendum is not passed by voters, then that grant money goes back into the "pot." If the Board decides to go back to voters with a smaller referendum, there is no guarantee that those grant funds will still be available. Other districts are and will be proposing projects and receiving grants. The state is not going to wait around for Ridgewood to come up with a package of projects that the voters approve. Taking advantage of this grant money and debt service aid will save taxpayers millions of dollars.
We would be proposing this referendum whether the economy was booming or busted. Because the projects are absolute necessities. We must replace roofs. We must improve air quality. We must stop educating students in hallways and vestibules. And we must find a way to get more use from our fields. Now is exactly the right time for Referendum 09.
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