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Westfield School District to Hold Two Bond Referendum Meetings Sept. 19

The public will vote on the bond referendum Monday, Sept. 24.

The Westfield school district will hold two public meetings on Wednesday, Sept. 19 regarding the upcoming bond referendum. The first will take place at 9:30 a.m. in the auditorium and the second will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium. 

The capital projects proposed through the $16.9 million bond referendum include replacement and repair of the majority of the school district’s roofs, which the Westfield  maintains have exceeded their life expectancy, and the installation of a lighted turf field at .

On Aug. 15, the BOE announced it created a website, www.westfieldnjk12.org/bond2012, which includes the following sections: Summary of the bond proposal; Questions and Answers; Letter to Residents from the Board of Education; Powerpoint presentations on the roofs and field; Schedule of meetings on the proposal; Voting information – including absentee ballot application download; and a Contact Form to e-mail the Board, to inform residents of the upcoming special election to be held from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24. 

Some Westfielders have expessed their opposition to the referendum because they believe the two proposed projects should not be bundled together. In a heated a large group of Westfield residents let Board members know they do not want the lighted field in their neighborhood, which they believe is already "overburdened." 

The proposed field is the district’s response to an increasing amount of participation in athletics, a trend that will presumably only continue given the expected student population bump. Westfield school district  Sandra Mamary said the facility would increase capacity for athletic and physical education activity, allow for repeated field use without damaging the grounds, and alleviate what has become a difficult scheduling situation. Plans for the , which is estimated to cost $3.3 million, , in mid-May. 

When asked who will be hosting and attending the meeting, Westfield schools spokesperson Lorre Korecky said additional information will be forthcoming. 

Check back with Patch over the next several weeks for more on this issue. To see more on this topic, visit Patch's Lighted Turf Field Topic Page. 

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Jeff B August 27, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Blatant electioneering! If they wanted turnout, they could have just held it on November 6 (the general election) and saved the children $20-30,000 of unnecessary special election expense. These folks have no shame.
Tom Smith August 27, 2012 at 02:28 PM
By NJ statute, the bond vote cannot be held on November 6. There are five possible dates, none in November: http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/School_bond_and_tax_elections_in_New_Jersey#Election_dates
Jeff B August 27, 2012 at 03:28 PM
That link is not current, as Westfield and most other NJ towns have moved their regular school election date - one of the dates for ballot questions - from April to the general election date.
john mancini August 27, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Why do we need a bond to repair roofs ? I thought each year when "they" make up a budget, don`t they have a line idem for $$$$ to be put aside for maintance for the brick and mortar of our schools ? A new bond means higher taxes because the tax payers has to pay it back. Everyone I speak to always complains about Westfield`s high taxes. Federal, state, county and local gov are all the SAME. Let`s get one over on the people & put ear marks on a referendum so non essential projects can be built. Why can`t our local town leaders SEPERATE the lights and roofs so WE THE PEOPLE can we vote on the issues we feel need to be addressed. Rememeber if the project costs "X" amount, the real cost will be "X" + MORE.
Jeff B August 27, 2012 at 05:02 PM
John, all good questions/points. The bottom line is that the Board mismanages the budget and conducts itself this way because it can. As I have written before, the three years of 3.9% raises given in 2010 could have paid for all of these improvements with no bond issue. Until reined in by voters, either by "no" votes on specific issues like this bond or by having candidates elected to the Board who represent the balanced interests and needs of the entire town instead of the wishes of a specific constituency, nothing will change. The scheduling of these apparent "get out the vote" meetings suggests to me that this bond issue may have received the chilly reception it deserves. In my opinion, it is unethical to impose a lighted field on a residential neighborhood, reducing our neighbor's property values, without a clear and compelling need. This really doesn't seem that far from an eminent domain issue - the government taking of property rights and value from residential homes neighboring the field for a public purpose (without compensation).
Lisa B August 27, 2012 at 05:21 PM
I think it is important to point out that not the entire board voted to shove the two bonds together. My friend Gretchen Ohlig (and I believe two other members, Friedmon and Slayter)also said no to one bond. It is not fair to keep blaming the whole board when at least 3 people got it right.
South Westfielder August 27, 2012 at 06:35 PM
The whole Board acts as a unit. The whole Board accepts the responsibility of its collective decision.
Tom Smith August 27, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Jeff B: Thanks for the correction. I had thought the November elections were only for school board membership, but it looks like November can be used for capital spending measures as well. http://www.njelections.org/publications/2012-0125-school-elections-faq.pdf
Gary McCready August 27, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Right now, it appears that having a bond vote in November is unclear; from what should be a definitive source: http://www.nj.gov/education/finance/fp/dwb/calendar.pdf >The 2012 School Election and Budget Procedures Calendar includes dates relevant to the April school election and the special elections (January, March, September, December). Since Senate Bill No. 3148 was signed by the Governor, additional guidance for an optional November election will be published as soon as possible. The law does not impact the dates for an April election published in this Calendar. The "guidance" does not appear to be published yet.; so until then, the prior guidence from below seems to be what the boards have to follow: http://www.nj.gov/education/finance/fp/dwb/PL2011c202FAQ.pdf >9. Q. Does a move to a November election affect a school board’s option to hold a special election, as is currently permitted by law four times a year at specified times? A. No, the four special school election dates (January, March, September and December) remain available. April is not an option. Above from: http://www.nj.gov/education/finance/fp/dwb.shtml
Gary McCready August 27, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Jeff B, you're assuming that the there would have been more money left in the budget if the 3.9% raises would have been simply lower. What everyone forgets to factor in were the health-care give backs those raises were combined with in a deal that significantly reduced the districts health care expenses under that contract. It is unlikely (but we will never know) that the same level of health-care givebacks would have been attained if the wage increase was smaller. You'll have to see if the BoE ever gave a post-implementation estimate of the savings.
Jeff B August 27, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Gary, from memory, I recall the health insurance cost giveback was worth around a million in total. That is dwarfed by the value of three 3.9% salary increases - which puts salaries up 12% in the final year of the contract, and ever after. Furthermore, my recollection is that the changes Governor Christie got through associated with the 2% Cap required an increased contribution toward health insurance costs - so I think we would have gotten that "giveback" anyway. I will also repeat a comment that I have made in the past - that teachers' contracts have continuing step/longevity/educational attainment increases built in, which continue independently of any additional overall salary increase from a new contract. For NY City, where I have some info, these alone average over 2% per year over a teacher's career. Then add the contract increases to see what they are getting in total - more than any taxpayer by far. Hopefully this gives some additional perspective on why local taxes are so high and why a starting Westfield teacher with an education degree getting $57,000 with great health insurance, pension benefits and vacation is just nuts.
Gary McCready August 28, 2012 at 01:16 AM
Jeff, your memory serves you correctly - one million+ less per year was the stated amount of savings, and without it, the district costs would have been that much more in each year. Part of the savings would be in a different type of insurance, from the traditional see-any-doctor to a managed care plan, not costing the teachers much different out of pocket, and by using a different drug plan, which did increase a teacher's costs. The Christie giveback would not have been as much, and I think will still factor into a new contract. And I think "step" increases are factored into the total amount, as different salary bands got different percentage increases. So, the net cost to the district probably came out to a 2-3% cost increase per year, and healthy teachers probably enjoyed a closer to 3.9% increase in pay. Keep in mind, thie contract was signed (perhaps in haste) prior to the Christie cuts and had those not occured, once you factor in what happens if the contract goes to arbitration (matching like districts), it would have definetly been a good deal for the District. Hindsight is 20-20.
Michael Lewis September 07, 2012 at 04:28 PM
@Gary McCready (or anyone who might be able to answer...) Hadn't the law changed to eliminate the "binding" part of the arbitration at the time the contract was signed? I ask because at SP-F we were concluding negotiations as well - there did not seem to be exceptional urgency on the Administration side because - my understanding was - at the end of the process a settlement COULD NOT be imposed from the outside; teachers would simply work under the existing contract until a new one could be negotiated - however long it took. MY memory here is fading, but I have always had the thought that certain negotiating parties knew more about what was going on in Trenton than has ever been made public (recall that we came very close to a settlement similar to that of Westfield...probably saved only by the timing of the public meeting).
Gary McCready September 08, 2012 at 03:27 AM
Not sure about the legal requirement to go to binding arbitration, but if the union and the BoE relationship goes sour, you can sometimes find teachers only doing the items that they are paid for, which would mean lots of clubs, activities, recommendations and the like would go undone until a settlement was reached. Never a good place to be. But for whatever reason back then, more than a few districts wound up in arbitration. And timing can be everything - I have no idea why SP-F waited, but it would be interesting to see what they had before, and then what they got after the aid reductions. Probably the original unsigned contract was never really made public.
Michael Lewis September 08, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Thanks - the term I had been groping for was "last best offer" - an administration could not be compelled to accept last best offer arrived at through the arbitration process - in theory it could go on indefinitely (though most settlements were done with an eye toward surrounding districts and workplace concerns (as noted). Chronology of SP-F was interesting measured against Westfield. Budget originally to have been announced 3/18/10 following teacher demonstrations at a regular meeting 2/18/10 over stalled negotiations. Christie cuts announced 3/17/10. Budget announcement deferred until 3/22/10. Tentative settlement announced with tentative budget 3/22/10: 3.9% 09-10, 3.5% 10-11. Defeated 4-4-1 (three negotiating team members voting for). Budget defeated in April. Revised settlement in Sept. 2010: 3% 09-10, 2% 10-11, 1.8% 11-12 (with adj. to other benefits). We did catch a break in the timing, but you can see where my interest here is in how the issue of the turf field is being framed and presented to the voters.
Jeff B September 08, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Michael Lewis, thanks for sharing the info. Depending on how large "adj. to other benefits" was, Westfield getting three 3.9% increases instead of what you quoted adds a differential salary advantage versus SP-F at the end of 3 years of 5%. I hope the Westfield Board of Education takes the competitive overpayment here into consideration in the upcoming salary negotiations. A 5% differential might be worth roughly $3 million per year in the Westfield budget. That would buy a lot of roofs and turf fields over time.

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