At tonight's Board of Ed meeting, Dr. Fishbein updated us on the status of the referendum projects. As of last week, the final bids have been opened. We are currently still running at approx. $2 million under budget. (So-called "soft costs" still need to be calculated.) This leads me to share some info that I sent to a resident earlier today, in response to a question: what will the Board do with the leftover funds?
Once all the referendum projects are complete and closed out (ETA April 2013), the Board will basically have two options:
1. Spending unused referendum monies on projects "not specified in the referendum." If the projects are "within the scope" of the referendum, the BOE can decide to go ahead and do them. If they are not "within the scope," then the BOE would need voter approval first. For example, the BOE could repair an additional roof at BF, because the referendum included roofs at BF. But the BOE could not use the money to upgrade the library at RHS (without asking the voters), because the scope of the referendum did not include renovating the library at RHS.
2. Return the unused referendum monies to the taxpayer. This would most likely be done by applying the funds to the annual debt service portion of the taxes we collect, and would only provide tax relief in that given year. For example: every year, the tax revenue we receive includes a portion that is used to pay our debt service for all the outstanding bonds -- not just the most recent referendum -- on which we make payments. In the 2011-12 budget, that amount of debt service taxes is $3,173,000. In 2013 when any unused referendum money becomes available, the BOE will not be allowed to apply the funds to the outstanding principal, nor can the bonds be called (not until at least 2020).
Another bit of (helpful) information -- I believe the decision as to what do with unused referendum funds must be "all or nothing." For example, the Board would not be allowed to apply some to projects and some to debt service.
All this info was in response to a resident's question, which was as a candidate for re-election, which of the two options will I favor. My answer to that question was: I cannot in good conscience predict what I would favor in April 2013. It will depend on what is happening with the District's overall budget, education needs, and facilities needs at that time. A lot can happen in two years. There can also be different people on the BOE. I can say that if I'm there, I would be open to any option and I would want to have a robust public discussion, all of us in the community together. I'm sorry my answer wasn't one of the two choices, but it is my honest and sincere belief. I think it would be irresponsible for me to make a more pointed prediction now.
One last note: Dr. Fishbein noted that work on the GW Middle School addition will officially begin tomorrow, and work at Willard begins next week! The Ridge and Hawes additions are coming along great. Many other projects are completed or in-process. It has been so great to see these projects through, and to see the differences in our facilities. This work truly will benefit the children of Ridgewood and the community for generations.
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