Welcome to Laurie Goodman's blog. I use this space to share news and opinions about education and schools in Ridgewood, the state of New Jersey and the nation, in addition to other issues I'm personally interested in. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, questions or opinions, too, by posting comments on any blog entry. Please observe basic courtesy -- keep your comments focused on issues, no personal attacks or bullying, please. Contact me directly at: lauriegood@mac.com

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Referendum FAQ #2: Managing so many projects

I've heard a couple people say something like, "How do we know all these school construction projects won't end up over budget and behind schedule, like Village Hall or the Vets Field bathrooms?"

First, remember this: the BOE is NOT the Village of Ridgewood. We are completely separate entities with our own budgets, management and -- this is important -- rules. You may be interested to know that the laws for school districts are much stricter than the laws governing certain aspects of municipal government. One example: the BOE is not allowed to go over budget. Period. If one of our projects requires more money, we can't just pass an ordinance to approve spending more than we have. We must remain under the budget. So, let's say we open up the roof of one of our historic buildings and discover things are much worse than expected, requiring more work and more cost. We will be forced to cancel other aspects of the project, to find the money. Maybe we would do without some locker replacement, or cancel some other renovation. Whatever it was, we would not go over budget. A) We don't want to. B) We're not allowed to. (This is why our $48 million proposal includes a 10% contingency -- because with buildings this old we know unexpected things will come up.

Second, it's good to know that we will not be managing concurrent renovations and/or expansions at nine schools using our current administrative staff. They already have full-time jobs -- and construction management isn't one of them. Instead, our plan includes hiring full-time construction management for the duration of the projects, to keep a close eye on the contractors, keep things moving on schedule, coordinate logistics with school activities, town activities, etc., and to manage the tons and tons of state-required paperwork. There will be weekly (at least) construction meetings with building principals and Ed Center administrators to keep the projects under control and spot problems before they actually become problems.

So if you're frustrated about the bathrooms at Vets, the cancelled parking garage or the previous Village Hall construction experience -- so am I. But those types of things simply can not happen with the projects proposed in this referendum.


Anonymous said...

What happens if you don't use the contingency money? Do you give it back to the taxpayers?

Laurie said...

If we don't use the contingency money, or if there is any money leftover, the Board of Ed will have a few options. We could return the money to the taxpayers as tax relief. We could use it to tackle other facilities projects (there is a list beyond what's in this referendum), thereby freeing up money in the budget for other programs. We won't know what the options are until all the projects are done...then the Board would discuss the options and ask the community for input before making any decisions.