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Raise the Roof! $13.6 Million Bond Referendum Passes 2,700 to 1,503

School board election held to fund roof repairs and replacements.

This story was updated at 2:57 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12 to include comments made by Westfield Board of Education President Rich Mattessich.

The hotly-debated $13.6 million bond referendum to fund district-wide roof repairs and replacement passed Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2,700 to 1,503, with 19 percent of voters casting their ballots.

Work on Westfield High School's roof, which carries the most expensive price tag – an estimated $4 million – and is in the worst shape, with 83 percent requiring removal and replacement, is expected to be completed during the summer of 2013. Work on one other school is also expected to be completed during the same time frame. The remaining buildings will be worked on during the summer of 2014.

In September, residents voted against a $16.9 million bond referendum that would have covered roofs repairs as well as paid for the installation of a lighted turf field at Westfield High School. Following the defeat by a 2:1 margin, Westfield Board of Education members said they "heard" voters and on Oct. 21 unanimously approved a referendum that did not include a turf field but accounted for the full cost to replace and repair the roofs of the 12 district-owned buildings in need. 

In a letter to the editor, Westfield Schools Superintendent Margaret Dolan said "current low bond interest rates make this a favorable time to issue bonds" and estimated the tax impact to the average homeowner at $31 in 2014. As existing bonds reach maturation, the total tax impact would decrease dramatically over the life of the new bond, she stated.

Wednesday morning, Dolan issued the following statement: “I am grateful for the public’s approval of this bond referendum for new roofs which will ensure the safety of students and staff and maintain the integrity of our infrastructure. Thank you to the Westfield community for your support.”

Reached by email Wednesday afternoon, Westfield Board of Education President Richard Mattessich said, "I am very happy that the bond referendum has been approved. This will allow the District to undertake much needed roof replacements without impacting class size or programs. I appreciate all of the hard work that members of the Board of Education and the Administration have put into this referendum. And I thank all of those in the community who worked so hard to support the referendum. And while our efforts toward the referendum have been successful, we must also keep in mind that our work on this project is just beginning. We will ensure that all bond funds are utilized efficiently and effectively for their intended purpose. And we will have very meaningful, public discussions about the appropriate level of capital funds that must be saved for future year projects as a part of our ongoing budget dialogue. I look forward to those discussions."   

BOE member Mitch Slater voiced his gratitude to voters Tuesday evening.

"This is why I chose to live in Westfield 21 years ago," said Slater. "We have the smartest and (most) caring community that clearly looked at the facts and realized this just made common and fiscal sense . I am so proud of Westfield tonight." 

To view election results, click on the attached PDF document. For more information about the bond referendum, visit the district's website.

Luke December 13, 2012 at 01:17 AM
Ok so now that this approved what is the maintenance plan so we don't get in this situation again? Will there be better planning on capital upgrades or will there need to get bond after bond and stop having to have ridiculous elections where public funds are used that could go to the BOE.
Gary McCready December 13, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Well, from last night's meeting, as summarized at http://www.westfieldnjk12.org/education/components/scrapbook/default.php?sectiondetailid=5270 The auditors reported that the BoE "have placed $2.2 million in maintenance reserve" which I assume will be used for maintenance items in the future.... Don't know if that was just from one year, or multiple years worth.
Jeff B December 13, 2012 at 02:09 AM
Anyone want to guess whether with this $2.2 million, annual increments to this reserve and the $13.6 million we might one day have "spare funds" for a lighted turf field not requiring a bond - especially if the roof work comes in "under budget"?
WestfieldWatcher December 13, 2012 at 03:45 AM
Jeff, you are obviously free to say what you like, but you really should take your family and go live some place where you won't have so much stress. Either that, or grab some prunes for breakfast tomorrow.
Doogie Howser December 13, 2012 at 04:21 PM
20-yrs from now when the roofs again need a full replacement, I would expect this to be bonded again. Capital improvements are not supposed to be paid for and expensed in a single year's operating budget. Why should today's taxpayer have to fund 100% of something that benefits the community for 20 years?

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