Forgive the pun, but I thought it was time to clarify and correct some of the “news” you may have been hearing about the fields and lights at RHS Stadium and Stevens Fields.
Friday’s Ridgewood News hosted several concerns about the funding for the lights. There was an allegation that one sports group may pull-out of the commitment to donate a minimum of 40% of the lease payments for years 2-5, if that group doesn’t get its way in terms of light shut-off times (as in, later light shut-off times). As BOE president Michele Lenhard said in that same newspaper article, the Board has a good-faith agreement with a group of sports organizations, and as of now, we are confident that the group will meet its commitment. There was never a promise of time for money, but rather an assurance from the District that rec sports groups need not worry about losing time on Stevens Field and RHS Stadium. Everyone involved in the arrangement pledged to use reason when working out schedules for use. The Fields Use Policy that will determine what days and times the lights can be used is currently being developed by the Joint Village of Ridgewood & Board of Education Fields Committee, and it will not be determined according to donation levels. The policy is scheduled to be presented to the BOE on Monday night, for discussion, public comment and possible approval. The policy will also need to be presented to the Village Council (date unknown) for their own discussion, public comment and approval.
Friday’s paper also contained some sensational claims about funding for the lights causing teachers to be fired or other staff to be cut. That is simply not correct. Here’s the explanation for the funding:
The lights were purchased with a five-year lease/purchase. That means we make five annual payments of $105,000. The first payment was made with funds donated by the sports groups. For year two, the BOE budget for 2011-12 includes 100% of the lease payment ($105,000) in the General Purchases line, the funds from which are not allowed to be used for paying staff. The General Purchases line is for one-time costs such as facilities repairs and summer maintenance projects, not for on-going personnel costs.
When the BOE receives the donation from the sports groups for year 2, the funds which had been earmarked for the lights will become available for other one-time building and maintenance costs.
In years three through five, the Board will have the ability to use unspent money from the referendum to complete our portion of the lease payments. (Currently we are running about $2 million dollars under budget on referendum costs.)
I hope this clears up any concern you might have had based on Friday’s newspaper. As you can see, asking parents if they are willing to give up their child’s teacher to pay for the lights is misleading at best.
If you’re wondering what’s the real story about baseball diamonds in Ridgewood (and I hope you do want to hear the real story), here it is in a nutshell:
We all know Ridgewood doesn’t have enough field space for the children who currently play sports (this was discussed at length when the Village commissioned the Recreation Master Plan) and volunteers work hard to balance field access. It's more complicated than it may seem because different age groups require different field sizes. The BOE and the Village knew when the District undertook the field improvements at BF and RHS that while access for some sports would be increased, a “domino effect” would impact the 2,000 children who play in the RBSA, as well as the RHS baseball and softball teams. Unfortunately, the necessary changes that would make more diamonds available on Village fields – whether at Pleasant Park (Lower Hawes), Habernickel or Schedler – have not yet happened. The expansion project at GW middle school will eventually add another small diamond to the mix, but that won’t help this coming Spring season. The lights at Stevens Field can potentially help, but we've got to balance their use with the concerns of our neighbors. We’re all going to need to work together, and that's the process we're in right now.
So, yes, Ridgewood has too few baseball diamonds for the number of kids who play baseball. But the BOE didn’t create this situation in a vacuum, and it appears that the ball (pun intended?) is in the Village’s field (as it were)…
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: firstname.lastname@example.org