Community Meeting on Capital Needs
The Glassboro School District hosted a November 17, 2014 community meeting to solicit feedback from Glassboro citizens and stakeholders regarding two closely defeated bond referenda that were put to a public vote in March and September 2014.
Pete Calvo, BOE president, provided an overview of the financial impact caused by restrictions and reductions in state aid initiated by the Christie Administration in 2010. A 2% cap on school districts’ Fund Balances (under-runs from the prior budget year) along with a 2% cap in annual tax levy increases has made it virtually impossible to accrue funds necessary to fund major renovations and prompted a 17% cut in staffing over the same period. He also provided feedback from the results of two recent (June 2014) independent financial audits that showed the district being fiscally responsible, with average tax increases at 1.5% per year, below the 2% cap.
Community feedback was frank and helpful. Many suggested that the Board should reconsider all of the projects and possibly break the question into smaller parts for consideration. Specifically, participants recommended that the district look closely at specific needs, wants, and desires and provide the public the opportunity to vote on those projects which they feel are necessary and reasonable. Individuals felt that Glassboro senior citizens and others on a fixed income support education but would appreciate the opportunity to prioritize projects through their votes. The District’s architect, George Duthie of Fraytak Veisz Hopkins Duthie, PC, presented an overview of possible smaller questions by breaking down project elements by Critical Needs, Energy Efficiency, and (educational) Program Enhancements. Each participant received a copy of the project list and costs for consideration and feedback.
Some suggested that the Board consider breaking down the questions and putting the high priority projects for a vote in March 2015 and postponing a second vote for another time. It was further suggested that the Board of Education should schedule a bond referendum every 5 years, so that the relative costs are lower instead of waiting 12-15 years when the overall costs are higher. The District’s last approved referenda in 2001 and 2002 totaled approximately $22 million, and that debt will expire during the 2018-2019 school year. The risk faced in postponing projects would be that the state may not offer to pay 47% or more of the debt service (project costs) as is currently anticipated and would require the district to pay for 100% of the project costs. The Board will also work closely with Borough Council to see if other grant funds can be used for projects such as Green Acres or Open Space grants for playground and athletic field improvements.The message communicated by participants was clear, “Yes, there are obvious needs that must be addressed, but consideration has to be made to ensure the impact on taxes is justified.” Those in attendance indicated an appreciation for the clear and transparent manner in which the costs, projects, and revenues were presented and were asked to continue to review the material and provide feedback so that the Board can make an informed decision on projects to consider for the March 10, 2015 Referendum.Feedback, Recommendations or Questions:Email Jody Rettig at email@example.com.