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

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Good questions & answers at last night's community meeting

I'd say there were about 30 people at last night's community meeting on the referendum. Many people brought questions, which Dr. Fishbein and Board of Education members answered. Most of the questions focused on trying to find alternatives to the $48 million bond referendum to address our facilities needs. The trouble is, there really are not many alternatives. To put it bluntly, it sucks that we have to do this, but the system is currently set-up so that the only way to accomplish major capital work is via bonds, which must be approved by voters.

Have we explored all our options? I believe we have.

To reiterate some of the suggestions/alternative solutions I've heard:

* Budget significantly more in capital work within our regular operating budget? Can't do it without removing programs or otherwise impacting daily education activities.

* Budget significantly more in capital work by increasing our regular operating budget? Not allowed, due to the state's budget cap.

* Get corporations to sponsor building projects (to create the RHS Pepsi Stadium or the Hawes Verizon Wing)? Companies aren't doing those types of donations anymore.

* Get the work done with our customary $2 million per year for capital and maintenance? Unfortunately, $2 million does not go very far when we have 11 buildings (One million square feet!) and a single school roof can cost $2 million.

* Split out the fields (or some other project) from this referendum? Too late. The ballot question is locked in.

* Re-open Glen School and redistrict? Re-opening Glen would require construction at Glen to add a cafeteria, library, art room and music room. We would need to hire a principal, secretary, nurse, art teacher and librarian, adding hundreds of thousands of dollars to our operating budget every year. Re-opening Glen would not address the needs at GW and RHS. And re-opening Glen does not address our wellness/athletics needs.

Those are the most comment suggestions. I wish some of them would work. But unfortunately, the way school funding is set up, and with the budget cap, bonds, voted by referendum, are the only way to do major facilities work.


acprkit said...

In a Ridgewood patch article, Jack Lorenz was quoted

"I'd rather save $400,000 on windows and get something different fixed," he said, as some classes run air conditioner wall units in the winter because they can't regulate the heat.

Is it possible to reallocate some of the money from the referendum if new needs pop up, or is the BOE locked into the projects on the list?

Laurie said...

If our bids or actual costs on referendum projects come in lower than estimated, the Board has two options: 1) accelerate other projects which did not make it onto the referendum list (we have plenty of other needs waiting in the queue); or 2) return the excess funds as tax relief. The Board would have conversations in public meetings and with the community as to which path (or combination) to take. So...that is how other projects could get done. We are not allowed to cancel something in the referendum and switch it with a new project.

Just to comment on Mr. Lorenz' specific statement, however: Mr. Lorenz may have forgotten that one of the referendum projects is the installation of digital temperature controls at the high school, to combat the very problem he mentions. (The referendum also covers replacing some of the most damaged lockers, another need the principal noted in the article.)

Anonymous said...

I know it's a nit and a pick but this statement

"...Get corporations to sponsor building projects (to create the RHS Pepsi Stadium or the Hawes Verizon Wing)? Companies aren't doing those types of donations anymore..."

is flat-out wrong. As someone who sells sponsorships for a living, marriages between properties and corporations can always be arranged. Just ask Izod or Prudential, or Land Shark Beer about their recent bricks-and-mortar sponsorship purchases. The problem for RHS is that it would need to give something up (like a relatively soda-free facility) in order to attract a company like Pepsi.

What is possible is to make available partial facility sponsorships to offset a portion of costs. Like a new scoreboard, or press box, or a foodstand.

Alas, the BoE can't begin to undertake this sales effort with all of its other priorities. But volunteers can...

Laurie said...

You are correct, on all counts. I should not have been so glib as to dismiss all possible sponsorship opportunities. I do believe, however, that public school districts are in a little different position than an Izod Arena for example. But I'd listen to ideas for certain items. Ideas are always good!