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Westfield BOE Votes to Place $13.6 Million Bond Referendum on Ballot Dec. 11

Westfield High School's roof is the top priority.

At Monday evening's meeting of the Westfield Board of Education, the Board unanimously approved placing a $13.6 million bond referendum on the ballot on Tuesday, Dec. 11 to fund district-wide roof repairs. 

Both the Finance and Facilities Committees requested approval of the bond issuance for the full amount needed to replace and repair all district buildings to be done as soon as possible.

“The bond does allow us to keep moving forward,” said Board president Richard Mattessich.

Westfield High School's roof has been deemed the top priority and if the bond is passed, the work can be completed during the summer of 2013. The Board also hopes work can begin on two to three other roofs in the summer of 2013 and then complete the remaining roofs in summer 2014.

“This isn’t easy, but the facts are the facts,” said Board member Mitch Slater. “The roofs have to be fixed and it has to happen now. This time it’s for real, folks. We need to pass this.” 

On Sept. 24 Westfield residents soundly defeated at $16.9 million bond referendum that would have funded both the roof repairs and a lighted turf field at WHS. Many residents told Patch they were voting against the referendum because the two projects were bundled together. 

Following the referendum's defeat Westfield schools superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan said voters had spoken and the Board is listening. Mattessich agreed and said the Board would "find a way to take care of everything over time."

The Board has been criticized for not having enough money in its operating budget to pay for ongoing maintenance and repairs. But last night the Board said the operating budget was never meant to fund a project of this size.

If bond doesn't pass, the district will have to make cuts elsewhere to find the money to fund the repairs. This includes postponing facility improvements and STEM commitments as well as the elimination of about 50 positions. Cuts would also be made to other sports and academic programs.

“We’re on a really good track and it’d be a shame to lose that momentum,” said Facilities chair Jane Clancy.

"We need to be bold and make this step," agreed newly-appointed Board vice president Roseanne Kurstedt.

westfieldfriend October 23, 2012 at 08:14 PM
To vote no out of spite certainly does no one any good. I agree the boe certainly mishandled things by initially bundling the roofs and the turf however, our kids safety is at risk and that is the bottom line. I believe (not 100% sure) that the conditions on some of the roofs could possibly jeopardize the schools even staying open. Taking the funds out of the operating budget to repair the roofs will only hurt our kids by affecting the quality of education they get not to mention who knows if there would be enough money to fix them properly. We want our quality of education to continue to move forward not backwards and we want our children to be safe while learning. It seems that the boe has heard the public and is finally starting to put money aside for capital improvement projects for the future, 2% of the operating budget is all they are allowed. I also believe & certainly hope that they have heard us regarding our feelings on the teacher contracts, so I'm sure we will see a different outcome when negotiations come up again. However the roof situation needs to be addressed right now and the bond is the only way to properly do that. I don't want or need to spend extra tax dollars but I also don't feel having our kids pay the price is the answer either.
C'mon Man October 23, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Holding our children's safety hostage.
A.John Blake October 23, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Your story says the $13million is to "replace and repair" all school buildings. Is the money just for the roofs or for all repairs to all buildings? Aren't we just moving the repairs of these buildings out of the reach of the 2%cap? Ms. Clancy ,in pushing for the failed referendum, said they had discussed the building needs since 2009. Why are we hearing of an "emergency" with the same buildings in 2012? If the BOE is limited to 2% of its budget for capital improvements, why not immediately vote 2% of the 2012 budget for the " emergency" repairs and add an equal amount in Jan.,2013. That should allow the "emergent" repairs to be made. Then proper planning would allow the continued maintenance of the buildings. The idea being floated that the children are in any danger is absurd. The idea that a rejection of this referendum will result in injury to a child is not credible. One would think that the BOE would try to salvage some semblance of credibility with the voters by seeking an amount which might arguably repair the roofs allowed to become the most deteriorated and suggest doing the rest within budget. A.John Blake
Mary Poppins October 23, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Hey Blake- why don't you join me up on the HS roof and see how safe you think it is then!! You, sir, are the absurd one. Do you ever smile or have a good day or like anything nor anyone - why are you such a Scrooge? BAH HUMBUG
Mary Poppins October 23, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Hey Blake or should I say Scrooge! Why not join me on the HS roof and see how absurd your comments are- why are you such an angry old man who thinks he is always in the right ---- as I say all the time GO FLY A KITE
Time For Change October 23, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Mr. Blake, where have you seen members of the BOE or the schools talk about danger to the kids. Also, do you have a game plan for how the current budget could come up with the money the BOE claims they need to fix the roofs, rather than the bond? Lets say they did only a portion of the roofs via bond now, maybe the $4 million they said they needed for the HS. How would you fund the balance over the 3 years or so that they claim it would take to get everything done. By my math that is about $3 million per year. I would imagine that someone like you who no longer has children in the school, does not really care about the programs and how it would impact the students. Did you ever have kids go through the school system? Who do you think funded the schools before they got there? Yes, all of the families before you.
Luke October 24, 2012 at 12:14 AM
Mitch???? NO threats to anyone yet? Is there a document saying that every single roof needs to repaired or replaced? I find it awfully hard to believe every single won does. I am sure some do but why all now? Why not fix or replace the critical ones this year then a few next year and so on. If this were the public sector thats what would be done.
Enough already October 24, 2012 at 12:33 AM
How about an independent audit of where the 'roof' dollars are going? How many contractors bid on the job and who is the contractor that got the contract? Is there any relationship to someone on the board? I'll vote no until a full accounting is made by the BOE. The tricks they pulled with the bundling casts a shadow on their transparency in financial matters that affect all of us.
Tom Smith October 24, 2012 at 01:10 AM
There are extensive documents on the BOE's website.
Walkin Westfield October 24, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Vote NO. There are other ways for the BOE to finance the repair and replacement of roofs besides saddling the residents of Westfield with $23 million in additional debt. The $13.6 is only the amount paid out to the vendors there is another $10 million in bond interest and issuance costs.
Westfield Parent October 24, 2012 at 03:15 AM
From the 10-2-2012 BOE Agenda: " Approve compensation of an additional 20% of their 2012-2013 salary to the following staff members, for teaching an additional class over and above the agreed upon teaching periods, effective 9/01/12 for the 2012-2013 school year (Per WEA Agreement.) David Della Fera English Westfield High School $16,077 ($96,462 total pay) Darren Finkel English Westfield High School $13,829 ($82,956 total pay) Caitlyn MacDonald English Westfield High School $13,583 ($81,498 total pay) John Cheddar English Westfield High School $13,722 ($82,332 total pay) James Rowan Latin Westfield High School $13,722 ($82,322 total pay) Maggie Gonzalez French Edison Intermediate School $14,973 ($89,838 total pay)" These are compensations for a 10-month job. Wow.
Time For Change October 24, 2012 at 10:19 AM
Taxpayer, your comments show your continued lack of attention to the topic and your ignorance. Are you aware that contracts have not been given to anyone at this point? The bond has not even PASSED. There have been NO bids, NO discussions with contractors, NOTHING. If you need to make negative and non-productive comments about something, perhaps there is another topic that you can spend time on but stay away from the roofs. There are people in town who would like to be inteligently informed.
Greg Michaels October 24, 2012 at 11:50 AM
How about cutting the Superintendent's salary? Since when are these superintendent's worthy of a salary equal to the CEO of a major corporation? Does she even live in Westfield? I'd much rather see my taxes go up to pay for more police on the street. Have any of you noticed the speeding on East Broad Street and no police in sight to crack down on it? Right now my taxes are $13,000./year and $8,000. of it goes to the school system. That is totally unfair. If parents want the best of everything for their kids then let them start paying partial tuition----why should we the public fund everything the parents want???!!!! As for the teachers, why are they even needed? Seems computers have taken over the classrooms and the teaching. Pull the computers out of the schools and go back to using text books-----what will ever happen if we have a massive power outage? Close the schools because no one can use their computers to do their work???
Westfielder October 24, 2012 at 12:41 PM
Blah, blah, blah. Let it go, it was defeated.
Westfielder October 24, 2012 at 12:47 PM
I'm with Taxpayer, get some more answers before voting yes.
Westfielder October 24, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Just noticed Time For Change's snide comments and misspelling. Talk about non-productive comments!
BOE Watcher October 24, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Just get Kenny Disko on the case! I'm sure Dr. Dolan can get a new kitchen out of the deal.
A.John Blake October 25, 2012 at 10:59 AM
I am amazed that some of the comments seem to miss the point that the taxpayers have been paying for a school budget which, at times, contained money for the repairs of buildings. That money seems to have been spent elsewhere. That choice was made by the BOE. They allowed the physical plant to deteriorate in favor of other choices made by them. Now we are being asked to repair what they have allowed to deteriorate and to do so in a bond issuance which is outside the spending cap set by the government. The argument is made that they now must repair every physical defect in the buildings ( outside the cap) or they will have to do things detrimental to the education of the children. This sounds almost extortionate. Due to the mis-management, I have no doubt some of the roofs need immediate attention. The BOE doesn't ask for enough to do emergent work, it is asking for enough money to re-roof every building not to mention re-point the masonry etc, etc. It would seem that the BOE wants to take the entire bill for maintenance of all the buildings and remove it from the spending cap. This certainly seems like an evasion of the spending laws. The Board is also reticent in saying how much the entire bill wll be for the Bond. The figures are given as how much will be paid per year and takes into account the retirement of other bonds. We will be spending far more than the $13 million. Add up all the interest over the life of the loan. A.John Blake
Fact Checker October 25, 2012 at 11:27 AM
Did I see you at any of these meetings to actually LISTEN to the facts Blake! Folks- this guys is dead wrong- Check out the video from this weeks BOE meeting on the District website and see why BLAKE is a fraud.....And why aren't you complaining sir about the TOWN COUNCIL who just voted to bond 1.4 MYN to pay off other people's taxes!!!!! Where is the outrage there my good sir....
JERSEY GIRL October 25, 2012 at 11:57 AM
Speaking of taxpayers, the HS student directory has come home, in reviewing, many students listed in the directory have moved out of town some time ago. What is the accurate account of students actually enrolled at the HS? Is there a way to determine that if a student presently attending the district actually lives in town? What is to stop someone from moving out fo Westfield and continuing to educate their child here, contributing to overcrowded classrooms? Just curious- neighboring towns do resident checks, bring in your lease, utilitiy bill, etc to make sure you actually should be attending school. I know it may be work on the part of the ofc staff, but it is an idea. Just appears that the town is on an honestly system, once enrolled, the school system makes no effort to check residency requirements in the future.
Help October 25, 2012 at 01:48 PM
For years there have been students attending Westfield schools that have been living in other towns. They claim to be living in Westfield with an aunt or uncle, grandmother or grandfather. Children of divorced couples have the benefit of a parent living in Westfield and many times the Westfield address will be used to enroll the student if the other parent lives in A neighboring town especially if the divorced couple has joint custody. I would like to know how many Westfield students get dropped off from neighboring towns and claim a Westfield relative's home as their residence.
A.John Blake October 25, 2012 at 02:21 PM
Fact Checker, Would you tell me in what facts I am wrong. Ms.Clancy referred to the roofs needing work since 2009. I was at a meeting when the Board accountant told the Board they had allowed their capital fund to drop too low.There has been no excuse offered concerning the deteriorated buildings except the failure of the Board to keep them in repair. We are now told that we either make up for the Board's mistaken priorities of the past or the education of the children will be hurt. That is wrong. We are not being asked to vote for a Bond to cover true emergency work. We are being asked to do all repairs. The Bond is outside the spending cap. What facts have I missed? A.John Blake
JERSEY GIRL October 25, 2012 at 03:18 PM
...or move out of town and not update the information with the schools, We now receive progress reports via email. Paperwork can be printed via the website. I am not talking students of divorce, I am referring to families who knowingly rent in town long enough to get their children established and then move out of town for reasons of lower rent for example, and still have their children attending Westfield schools. I bet the number of familes doing this is higher than you may think. I would be equally suspicious if the number of students goes up at the middle school level. Just saying,think Westfield needs to consider evaluating proof of residence or fear of a large fine if caught.
buzz October 25, 2012 at 10:11 PM
to Time For Change You say neither bids nor official estimates were obtained? No competition? How did they come up with $13.6 million if they don't know the cost? The board took the failed $16.9 deducted the field $3.3 and now at $13.6. Doesn’t appear they sharpened the pencil. Even a few million lower would have shown earnest.
Time For Change October 26, 2012 at 11:07 AM
@buzz- Please re-read my comments. I never said that there were no "official estimates". The estimates have been established by the architects and the construction consultants, neither of whom are the people that will actually do the work. If you take the time to do your homework before judging the BOE (yes, I know, that judging is the easy and fashionable thing to do) you would see exactly where these estimates have come from. As they have explained to us numerous times, once (and if) the Bond passes, there will be a competitive bidding process just like any other project of this magnitude. I am sure the Board would love to hear your suggestions of how to come up with that "few million" you refer to in order to eventually fix the roofs.
A.John Blake October 26, 2012 at 08:32 PM
@Time for Change, After the resounding defeat of the last referendum, do you think the voters are trying to tell you they are tired of the spending by the BOE. Set aside for a minute the necessity of all of the roofs being repaired at one time through a Bond that evades the 2% cap. Did the Board consider the damage to its credibility to have its recommendation rejected by a 2-1 majority in every ward in Town? Did it take into consideration that the reason the roofs are in their present state is because of the prior choices made by the Board allowed the deterioration ? Do you think it might have been politic or good public relations to recognize that re-trenchant and a bit of "humble pie" might be in order. No one wants to see the Board don sackcloth and ashes, but a deference to the reasons for the Board's rejection might have made the new referendum more palatable. The Governor's cap on Superintendant's salaries was just upheld by the Appellate Court. It would seem Dr.Dolan will have to take a healthy cut. No one will forget the BOE in the forefront trying to pay her what has now been declared an illegal raise.When do you think the Board will recognize the voters desire for economy? A.JohnBlake
Time For Change October 26, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Mr. Blake, many good questions, none of which I can answer because I see the same public information that you do. I think that they explained to us their point of view in the last meeting. Basically, they all said that the roofs need to be repaired, they told us before the last bond that it would cost $13.6 million and at least from my point of view, I am happy they stuck to it. Had they reduced it, I would have asked why they went for $13.6 if they did not really need it. As for "retrenchment", which is what I think you meant to write, what would that have accomplished. I don't need them to eat humble pie; I need them to support the infrastructure in the district and maintain the programs that the parents in this town want. If they cut the bond and still fix what needs to get fixed, they will be forced to cut programs. I am certainly not defending prior Boards as I agree they did not plan wisely. And one last personal opinion. I think that they bond failed because they chose to bundle, not because people did not want the roofs fixed.
A.John Blake October 27, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Sir, I agree to some extent. If they had not proposed the turf fields, the bond most probably would have past. Again, not questioning the present needs, the Board needed to pass a bond. In my opinion they lost a large amount of credibility by first saying the lighted fields were necessary. They lost even more by scheduling a special election when everyone knows that historically results in very low turnout. They really infuriated the public with the bundling and they looked like a bunch of back room pols. They were roundly rejected and they have now inspired their enemies. The credibility of the Board has taken a hit and they ostensibly shrug it off. They are now taking every bit of deterioration they and their predecessors should have taken care of inside their budgets and want the public to validate the mis-management by allowing them to repair everything outside the budget and safe from the 2%cap. Whether the need is there or not, it appears like gross chutzpah. They probably could have assured themselves of half a pie if they made it appear they were bowing to the popular will and asking for only $X .Out of $13million, there have to be some items that are not "emergent". Why not diplomatically put them aside and allow the voter to at least think the Board was economizing? The Board's aloof actions might be enough, with its credibility problem, to result in disaster. A.JohnBlake
Walkin Westfield October 29, 2012 at 04:07 AM
Requesting a second bond for $13.6 million is arrogant. They need to refinance the existing debt and use the savings to replace and repair the roofs.
Walkin Westfield October 29, 2012 at 04:17 AM
the BOE was telling everyone they wanted to spend millions to construct requlation size fields next to the WHS but what they failed to mention is that they are regulation size fields for pee wee leagues.

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