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Letter to the Editor: BOE Member Urges 'Yes' Vote on Bond

Westfield Board of Education member Ann Cary urges residents to support facility projects by voting "yes" on the bond referendum.

To the Editor:

In 2009, the Westfield Board of Education convened a Strategic Planning Council of community members, teachers, administrators, and board members to develop the 2010-2015 Strategic Plan for the district.  One of the goals of the plan is to analyze and prioritize the district’s maintenance projects and to seek funding to support facility upgrades.

For years, the administration and the Board have had to prioritize the needs of the district.  Student achievement has always been our highest priority. The retention of teachers, staff and programs that lead directly to student success were funded first. For example, I have always advocated for small class sizes in the primary grades. Each child that learns to read in the first grade only goes to first grade once. A student’s ability to read can’t be put on the back burner for a year, but the roofs could be repaired and patched for a year.  Therefore, facilities, fields and technology were discussed, monitored, maintained and put in a holding pattern for several years.

For the last two years, we have been trying to find ways to address the facility and technology needs of the district. Due to a small increase in state aid last year and savings from our energy, health and benefit plans we have been able to move forward and begin to plan and implement some facility and technology projects. But the only way to address our most expensive facility projects is through a bond referendum.

The Board’s Facilities Committee, along with the administration, has determined the facility priorities for the district. One of the top priorities, replacing boilers at McKinley and Franklin Schools, was achieved through our maintenance budget. Smaller, but important projects, such as the replacement of windows at Edison Intermediate Schools, replacing the rigging on the stage at the high school, and the repaving of many parking lots were also funded in this way. But, the cost of replacing 77% of the roofs on 11 buildings and installing a turf field are priorities that are beyond our ability to save for due to the 2% cap on our fund reserve balance. Therefore, the Board has determined that the only way to fund these two projects is by asking the public to support a bond.

As a Board Member, I support the upcoming bond referendum and feel that it is the only way to fix our roofs and provide the additional field time that our students need.

Sincerely,

Ann Cary
Westfield Board of Education

Wally Westfield September 19, 2012 at 05:16 PM
by what standards are a turf field a priority?
just concerned September 19, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Mrs cary, do u know our public safety is cut big time and u say a turf field is a priority?
Frank September 19, 2012 at 07:12 PM
The effort for anyone involved in budget making should include saving for needed facility repairs, not paying the highest (or one of the highest) starting salary in NJ- Over $57,200 for a recent college grad to be a first year teacher. Check the Asbury ParkPress.com> data universe>Union County>Westfield for the info. If they were more prudent with union salaries, we wouldn't need to be faced with a bond vote for a lit turf field (a bad idea that has snowballed) or roof repairs now, would we.
Luke September 19, 2012 at 11:32 PM
Wasn't it last year the BOE had to cut some people loose? Instead of replacing teachers and administrators who are worthless they in there infinite wisdom let some of the lowest paid people go. The janitors! The subject of public safety keeps coming up. The fact that the fire department and police departments are under staffed as it is and the BOE feels that we need yet another turf field but with lights. Well I ask how will the police staff this field for events? If you have night games and you think that just because we are in Westfield that there wont be any issues or fights you are waaaaaaaaaaaaay wrong.
A.John Blake September 20, 2012 at 12:13 AM
Ms.Cary, In the past, if your priorities had taken into consideration that a roof was absolutely necessary to any size class and to every teacher, no matter what his pay, we would not have the crisis your poorly chosen options have left us. If, in the past, you had repaired what you had, we would not be facing the problems you created. No matter the reason for the problem, roofs should be repaired. If this were so urgent, and if it could not wait, why did you jeopardize a bond for the roofs by bundling it with what , at best ,is considered desirable , the turf fields and lights. If it is so urgent and so important, why did you take a chance on losing the vote because of opposition to the fields and lights? If you let it stand alone, it would have passed. Is it possible you have determined a way to avoid putting school repairs in your budget? Is this a way around the spending caps? Even you don't have the stomach to actually argue that the fields and lights are necessary. You merely end your plea with a passing comment that more field time is needed. The BOE's handling of this entire affair smells like Mayor McDermott's Parking deck fiasco. May it share the same fate. John Blake
Walkin Westfield September 20, 2012 at 10:47 AM
If the BOE has been discussing this since all of three years. Why hasn't the BOE properly funded their capital reserve account. The capital reserve accounts has a balance of $686 meanwhile they have an operating budget of $95.3 million. I am proud that Westfield has dirty fields. Keep Westfield Green. Vote NO
Lucagee1 September 20, 2012 at 11:12 AM
I think we all agree that as taxpayers and parents none of us mind paying money for our children to be able to become more competitive due to better facilities or not get wet because roofs won't leak. I live in the neighborhood and won't even mind the lights. However, as a taxpayer I do expect better execution and more professionalism from any entity, government or school, that is looking to increase my taxes. The BOE in this instance has failed on many fronts. First this bond is setting a precedent that we are fearful of and during an incredibly difficult financial time. Second, they have failed to convince or share appropriate information around innovative ways to pay for the field or to create revenue from it, which is easily accomplished. Third, they have done an incredibly poor job on providing field governance or policies. Fourth, I have heard no mention of what is to become of the money that has been used ongoing and that was hopefully budgeted for this and future years roof maintainence. As a taxpayer, parent and professional, I expect more when someone is asking for 16 million dollars and sadly in this instance my, and it appears many others, expectations have not remotely been met. BOE gets an F minus on this one.
Westfield Parent September 20, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Mrs. Cary, Could you explain why we are not putting the lights at Kehler Stadium instead, with the existing artificial field? Wouldn't that be the most logical, the most economical, and the most sensible thing to do?
Concerned Resident September 20, 2012 at 12:52 PM
I'm confused...Westfield schools were having trouble teaching kids to read so therefore we couldn't repair the roofs...based on that comment, I'm thinking we have bigger issues than needing a turf field and lights!
Karen September 20, 2012 at 02:59 PM
I agree; roof repair should have been in the budget for the past several years. Times are difficult, use common sense in selecting what needs to be done. There a number of senior citizens in my neighborhood who are finding it more difficult to stay in their house due to taxes constantly going up. Most have lived in their house for over 50 years; does the board have a heart?
Walkin Westfield September 20, 2012 at 04:45 PM
How does resurfacing an existing natural grass field provide additional field time? New Jersey sod is played on by the Boston Red Sox at Fenway park, the NY Mets at the new Citi Field and the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. New Jersey’s sandy soil is ideal because it drains well. Money spent on NJ sod is money that remains in the local economy. Members of the NFL Players Association are questioned every two years with regards to what playing surface they prefer. Not surprisingly, 69.5% prefer to play on a grass field as opposed to artificial turf. Only 14% preferred the artificial turf, while 16% indicated they had no preference or the question was not applicable
Jeff B September 20, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Karen, there are many senior citizens around town who are struggling. A too common attitude toward them is, "If you don't like the taxes, move." My attitude is, "If you don't like the taxes, vote". Over the years, there have been many good people who would have brought some fiscal judgment to the Board who did not get elected by margins far smaller than the number of elderly who did not vote. If this bond issues passes, I believe the same will also be true. (Take an elderly person to the polls.)
Time For Change September 20, 2012 at 07:37 PM
The bleeding hearts on this board are pathetic. You all want to complain and yet when it comes time to step up and run for the board, nobody comes out to vote. There we 2 open positions and people ran unopposed. Your vote or "non-vote" for the people on the current board gave them your proxy to do what they think is right for the town and weighing a balance of all of the constituents. We all make choices. If you don't want to pay more in taxes, either vote people out of office or move. It's pretty simple.
A.John Blake September 20, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Time for Change, What about the third choice. Tell the people on the Board what the priorities are of the voters and tell them to either follow those priorities or leave the Board.You don't seem to understand the idea or representative government. The Board is there to represent the wishes of the voters. They represent the voters not the teachers, not the children, not the unions, not the sport leagues. The term "public servant" is used but seldom understood by the paternalistic electee who thinks he/she knows best and if you disagree, you are automatically wrong. The servant serves the will of the public. The Board will hopefully receive a lesson and learn from it. This would not be a rejection of the whole Board. It is a rejection of one action by it. The Board should learn and accept if the Bond is rejected. John Blake
Concerned Resident September 20, 2012 at 08:58 PM
Well said John Blake
Time For Change September 20, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Absolutely correct. The board is their to represent the wishes of the voters, ALL VOTERS, not just the ones who complain the loudest and then do nothing else but complain. The folks who have yelled the loudest about this bond claim that the board is not listening. From what I have seen, this board has listened quite well and I appreciate allow the meetings that they have held to inform on the facts. The problem is that people think because the board won't do what they want them to do, then the board isn't listening. They listened and have been very forthcoming with information. As you have said, come out and vote. If the bond is voted down, then hopefully the board will take that constructively. Mr. Blake, you have had your opportunity to serve the public buti suppose you choose to only serve the public from your computer. Anyone can do it from there.
A.John Blake September 20, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Time for Change, The best place to serve the public is in the voting booth. We will then find out what the voters want. If the bond passes, the voters deserve what they get. If the Bond goes down to defeat, the voters deserve what they get. The most important thing now is the voting. JohnBlake
Walkin Westfield September 20, 2012 at 11:32 PM
I think we all appreicate the time and effort spent by the BOE members but their request for additional funds is not supported by their argument. They presented a weak one sided proposal for spending millions of dollars to resurface a beautiful natural grass multi purpose field, they demanded a single vote on three very different issues and they provided a weak argument for spending tens of thousands of dollars holding a special election. Now is the time to vote NO so that the BOE understands that it is a well informed resident who will weigh the balance of both the favorable and unfavorable aspects of all issues subject to a bond referendum.
Matthew Wiener September 21, 2012 at 01:54 AM
I also urge everyone to vote no. I was at the council meeting where a majority of the board voted to combine the two bond referenda. Not a single board member had anything sensible to say about why they should be combined - I asked twice. This is a simple case of some board members trying to force through an unpopular field by attaching it to the roof repairs - something like the old Harvard Lampoon magazine cover that said "buy this magazine or we shoot the dog". But it's not true. Once this referendum has been defeated, the board can put the roof referendum back on the general election ballot. It's important to defeat this so that board members stop over-reaching, and allow people to make choices issue by issue.
South Westfielder September 21, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Sorry, Ms. Cary, but while I often disagree with him, Mr. Slater was correct - they are not the same and should not be in the same bond. I will be voting NO. I encourage other Westfielders to do the same.
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