The community feels that our taxes are going higher and higher and there is no stop. Added to the fact that our house values have gone down by 3 percent over the last year, this is a big problem.
Any addition to Maurice Hawk needs to be done by a bond referendum. When the school district does a bond referendum, the state “refunds” (and yes, this is after the project is concluded) between 15 percent to 40 percent of the total amount of the project. I confirmed these percentages with Superintendent David Aderhold on May 4.
A bond referendum would give taxpayers savings of $5 million for the Maurice Hawk addition. How could the Board of Education vote against this? The vote was 8 to 1. They did the same thing with the $13-million Village School addition: no referendum vote, so we lost $5.2-million in state aid on the Village addition. For a grand total of $10.5 million in lost state aid.
Here we are with the possible need to add classrooms because of new developments. My kids attend Dutch Neck, however, the bottleneck will happen also in Village, Grover and High School South. Therefore, it is a problem for my kids at all these schools.
I am in favor of small class sizes. I am in favor of the addition to Maurice Hawk. What I am not in favor of is the way it is being done.
1. There is no updated demographic study. The most recent one dates back to January 2013.
2. There is no clear number on the seats available in the schools. I asked about capacity via OPRA request, to later be told by Aderhold that there are different ways to calculate the capacity in a building. Still he has not given me the numbers.
3. I asked him how big the new addition will be in square feet. No answer.
4. I asked how much the total project would cost. No answer. It is only an estimate as WW-P will not break ground until summer 2018.
Therefore, setting aside the $12.5 million dollars that we have in capital reserves is putting the cart before the horse. I was told that the architect needed to have the money in the escrow account to be able to file the paper work with the Department of Education. Once again, why does he need the total amount of $12.5 million dollars? How do other schools that do not have such a huge amount in capital reserves manage to build additions? They do not set the total amount of the project aside. Why does WW-P need to do it?
Having such a huge amount of money in capital reserves give the administration and board of education power to do whatever they want without asking any input from the community.
In a letter to the WWP News in 2012, school board president Anthony Fleres said, “WW-P maintains several reserve funds, the most significant of which is the capital reserve fund. This fund supports the district’s over $200 million investment in buildings and facilities. Without this reserve, major repairs would have to be funded either through the annual budget, which is subject to cap limitations, or through a bond issue and its associated interest expense.”
The bathrooms at High School South are disgusting and have not been repaired. What is the principal of High School South waiting for, an invitation from the community to address this problem? Maurice Hawk has heating problems all the time. During the winter, the classrooms are too cold, and during the summer the classrooms are too hot.
The board of education accumulates the money in the capital reserve account, but never addresses all the issues that our buildings are having. So why do they need $20.5 million dollars in that account? It is just “power” to do what they want to do while they are selling us another story. All the facts stated above can be very easily confirmed.
In addition, where is board member Louisa Ho on all this? She is the chair of the Finance Committee and campaigned on the promise of “improving communication” between the community and the administration. How come she does not send a letter to the community to tell us about all the financial details of this project?
Stay tuned community, we are being taken for a ride. WW-P and the board of education are playing fast and loose with our tax dollars. Not accepting state aid of millions of dollars is irresponsible and hurts our students.
— Veronica Mehno, West Windsor