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$7.7M Fields Referendum Plan Moves Forward

High school athletic field proposal, if approved by BOE, will go to voters Jan. 22.

By a near-unanimous vote, the Parsippany-Troy Hills Board of Education approved putting forward a plan to improve athletic facilities at Parsippany and Parsippany Hills high schools. The body decided to place one $7.7 million question before voters for a bond referendum on Jan. 22.

The board will consider a resolution at its next meeting to make the referendum plan final.

Before the vote, bond attorney Lisa Gorab from the firm Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer presented the board with a plan to reduce the amount of money it would have to borrow to cover the cost of school field improvements. Gorab recommended refinancing current outstanding debt and using the savings to reduce the debt that would have to be incurred for the fields project.

Gorab said the fields plan would be financed with 10-year bonds, at a cost to taxpayers of $880,000 per year in new debt service for 10 years. By refinancing old debt, the lawyer said $175,000 could be saved, cutting the annual payment to abot $700,000 per year.

"That will cost taxpayers about $30 annually on assessed homes," she said.

Gorab also recommended limiting the referendum to one question rather than multiple questions.

"The more questions you have, the more confusing it is to the voters," she said.

Board attorney Kathleen Gilfillan added that confusion can lead to litigation down the road.

Gorab said the evening's vote was to authorize her to draft a referendum that would go forward after the new Board of Education is seated at the start of 2013, adding that in order to draft the document, she needed to have a final figure for the project cost and the number of questions the board wanted to include.

Board member Michael Strumolo reacted with anger.

"I feel like the tail wagging the dog," he said, insisting that hard numbers on the cost of the field project had not been provided to the board.

Member Susy Golderer agreed with Strumolo, saying the $7 million-plus figure was a surprise to her.

President Frank Calabria disagreed, saying that the numbers were discussed and agreed to during the board's Aug. 23 meeting.

At that meeting, Golderer voted yes, but indicated that in the end she would not support a plan cost that exceeded $6 million.

Member Gary Martin expressed frustration as well, arguing that Parsippany's children deserved every improvement—$11.5 million worth—previously considered by the board. He added that a retractible dome roof should be part of the project as well.

"The children deserve it all," he said, "not some half-assed, Mickey Mouse project."

"I don't see why this comes as a shock or surprise," said board member Fran Orthwein.

Members of the public agreed with Orthwein.

"No more delays," said Beth Bluj. "Decemeber marks one year since the Fields of Dreams discussions began. It's time to stop beating a dead horse. No one should be surprised. Listen to the experts. This is not a half-assed project.

"Move on with this project so we can give the kids fields they can be proud of," she urged, and her husband followed to concur.

"For the better part of a decade," said Tom Bluj, "we've been waiting. The children have been waiting. The town has been waiting."

"Why do you have to waste everyone's time?" resident Alison Cogan asked the dissenters. "You made a resolution. We counted the numbers."

When the board finally voted, all members voted yes, save for Martin, who cast an abstention.

Before his yes vote, Strumolo made a statement pointing to a recent fields referendum considered in Montville.

"That was for $1 million, and it failed," he said. "If this one fails, [when it comes to the fields], we're back to square one."

VietNam Vet December 22, 2012 at 05:36 AM
Analli, this board does have the money to pay for this but they don't want to part with our tax dollars. They have over 5 million dollars in surplus from last year and they all of a sudden when asked about it they say they don't have it, so I've been asking what happened to it? Who took it? and what was it spent on?
VietNam Vet December 22, 2012 at 05:45 AM
Peter, I couldn't have said it better. This board does not use our tax dollars wisely and we the taxpayers are being screw everyday by them, starting with the over paid supt.
Analli Citall December 26, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Did you see the proposal for both tracks? 8 lanes for each. I do not understand why they need to go to such extravagant lengths for these high school kids. The BS that is spewed in the proposal is just sickening. School spirit will go down if this doesn't pass. Really? Prove that to me. That is just plain rhetoric. Not facts. Plus the lies that the HS soccer teams are going to use the fields during the Spring. Not one HS soccer practice takes place in NJ outside of the summer and fall. Someone is just lying to everyone in this proposal. I would love to see how many gym classes actually take place up on these fields on a regular basis. What more are these classes going to do now that they don't currently do?
Analli Citall December 26, 2012 at 09:16 PM
If someone doesn't make a little noise this referendum will just slide on by and pass with 2 votes. All of our taxes will increase and none of the pros of this proposal will actually happen. School spirit will not increase. More HS kids will not use the fields. And the ongoing costs to maintain these fields will drive the over all costs higher than originally estimated.
Analli Citall December 26, 2012 at 09:27 PM
Curious, is there a minimum number or percentage of the entire electorate that needs to come out to vote? Is the referendum vote only binding if a specified turnout threshold is reached.

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