BOND UPDATE - January 3, 2013
Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Margaret Dolan, reported at the January 3 Board of Education meeting that on Decemer 12, 2012, the day after the bond was approved by voters in Westfield, the District took steps to begin the roof replacement project. Our Business Administrator, Dana Sullivan, met with the architect. It is anticipated that we can go forward with 3 roof replacements this summer and the rest of the project in 2014. The bidding process will begin this spring.
BOND REFERENDUM APPROVED BY VOTERS - December 12, 2012
Thank you, Westfield Voters, for supporting our schools!
SCHOOL BOND REFERENDUM
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
DISTRICT ROOF REPLACEMENT
- The Board and Administration have thoroughly assessed options – evaluating the condition of our buildings, the uncertainty of state aid, the responsibility to our students to prepare them to reach their highest potential and provide a safe environment for their education, and the expectation of the community to maintain an excellent school system.
- Following extensive evaluation, on October 22, 2012, the Westfield Board of Education unanimously approved placing a $13.6 million bond referendum on the ballot for Tuesday, December 11, to fund the replacement and repair of roofs on each of the 12 district owned buildings.
- Following feedback from the public and the outcome of the failed September bond, the Board is not pursuing a turf field in the bond referendum, thus reducing the original referendum total by $3.3 million.
- The majority of school district roofs – on all 12 buildings -- which have undergone regular maintenance and repair, average more than 20 years old, and need to be replaced. There are active leaks and deteriorating conditions that compromise both infrastructure and safety.
- There is no grant money available from the state to fund the roof project. The School Construction Act option remains unfunded.
- Operating budgets and maintenance reserve – which the state has capped -- were never intended to fund major capital projects.
- Per state procedures, the December 11, 2012 date is the very next one available to the district for a bond referendum vote. A December approval by voters would result in at least 1 – 2 roof replacements over the summer of 2013.
- Most urgent is the replacement of the Westfield High School roof with 83% of the roof requiring removal and replacement -- targeted for the summer of 2013.
- The High School work, which also includes masonry restoration and other related repairs, is estimated at approximately $4 million.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE BOND FAILS?
- If the December 11 bond fails, the $4 million for the high school roof – which needs to be replaced this coming summer -- would have to come from the 2013-14 operating budget, resulting in budget reductions of the same amount. The likely impact could result in:
o Elimination of approximately 50 positions
o Reductions to athletic programs (number of sports and levels of teams)
o Reductions to fine arts classes and programs
o Increased class size at elementary level
o Increased class size at the intermediate level and decrease in electives
o Increased class size in WHS in all departments
o Increase in required enrollment for all WHS classes (e.g., Project ’79, AP classes)
o Decrease in counseling staff
o Decrease in librarians
o Decrease in technology staff
o Postponement of the district’s commitment to technology and STEM
o Postponement of other facility improvements
- If the bond fails, budget reductions would have to be in place for 3 – 4 more years, as the remainder of the roofs are repaired and replaced
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE BOND PASSES?
- If the bond passes, all roofs could be completed by the summer of 2014, with the High School and possibly one other roof completed in the summer of 2013.
- If the bond passes, the district can move forward to protect the infrastructure of our buildings, to safeguard students and staff, to stop chasing leaks, and to accept all the professional evidence that has been gathered to date over the last two years.
- If the bond passes, no academic or co-curricular programs or personnel would be cut due to the roofing project.
- If the bond passes, the estimated cost to the average homeowner would be a $31 increase in taxes for only one half of 2014. With maturation of existing bonds, the total tax impact would decrease dramatically over the life of the new bond.
WHY A BOND?
For years at public meetings the Board has discussed how to find options to fund roof replacements on our district’s school buildings. State grants have not been available for years. To find alternate sources of funding, we reached out to solar investors to see if an arrangement could be made for them to replace our roofs if we passed along the energy savings from the solar panels. After two years of research and discussions, this proposal was rejected due to the major investment solar companies would have to make in replacing our roofs. About ten years ago the state took away our ability to save more than 2% in our reserve fund balance. Three years ago the state decreased our state aid by 96%. Two years ago the state placed a 2% cap on all school district budgets. As a result, the ability to save for large capital improvement projects became that much more difficult for school districts throughout the state. We do have a 5-year facilities plan and we have been able to make headway with replacement of boilers, windows, lockers, HVAC upgrades, and other projects We cannot fund new roofs through our operating budget without making substantial cuts for several years.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
To listen and watch the presentation and Q & A from the Board meeting of October 22, 2012, please click on https://vimeo.com/52232131