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Fields Referendum May Have Hidden Costs, Warns Resident

Opinion to share? Send a Letter to the Editor to natalie.davis@patch.com.

In compliance with the law, the Board of Education has provided voters with an
estimate of how much annual bond repayments will cost the homeowner if the
$7.7 million school referendum is approved.

Like most components that make up our property taxes, a homeowner’s share
of the principal and interest on the bonds will depend on the assessed value of
your home. For example, a house assessed at $350,000 would result in a $35
charge to the homeowner each year for the next 10 years. Normally, property tax
increases are limited by the state mandated 2 percent cap. In this example, approval of the referendum would allow taxes to exceed the cap by $35.

However, in addition to the bond repayments, there are also undefined annual
maintenance costs that the Board of Education has not specified. Here are a few
examples:

• In 10 years, and every 10 years thereafter, the board will have to come up
with approximately $1 million ($500,000 per field) to resurface the fields.
• There will be extra staffing and security costs associated with the increased
usage of the fields, especially at night.
• As a result of year round night time activities, lighting costs will be very
high. The cost of lighting one field is approximately $40 per hour. If the
lights are used 250 days during the year, the annual lighting bill could be in
the neighborhood of $80,000.
• There will be heating, electric, and maintenance costs associated with the
enclosed bathrooms.
These annual expenses have to be absorbed by the regular school budget which
is capped at 2 percent. So if $200,000 is added to the regular budget because of the operating expenses listed above, then other areas of the budget, perhaps even
academic ones, will have to be reduced by that amount.

On January 22, as you read the wording of the referendum, be aware that there
is no mention of the annual costs associated with maintaining the facilities after
they are built. These costs will be significant, and unlike the bond repayments,
they do not end after 10 years.

Bob Venezia
Parsippany

Michael Brancato January 09, 2013 at 04:32 PM
Mr. Venezia, you bring up some good points. I would definitely like to see some provision made for putting money aside to replace the turf 10 years from now, instead of having this debate all over again in 2023. The question I have is this: what are we paying to maintain the fields now, and what will it cost to make them safe? There is no specific line item in the BOE budget that says "field maintenance." I do not recall ever seeing an alternate proposal for the costs of replacing the current fields with sod instead of turf. During the initial FOD proposals, one of the selling points was that the replacement cost of the turf could be made up by the savings in maintenance costs, but I don't recall anyone ever laying out the numbers or proposing that those monies be put aside for that purpose. You have some very convincing numbers in your article, but the one that sticks out to me is "if $200,000 is added to the regular budget." Does your number account for these supposed savings we get from a turf field? Is it possible that we will actually save money in maintenance over the next 10-25 years that this proposal is projected to cover, despite the added costs of the lighting and restrooms?
clyde donovan January 09, 2013 at 04:44 PM
The people of any township have the responsibility to give children an adequate education. The people have no obligation to supply expensive, professional-style facilities for children particapating in sports. If the parents of athletes want professional sports fields, they should cough up the money themselves instead of trying to scam the taxpayers into paying for this folly.
Sick of the trolls January 09, 2013 at 07:11 PM
Hey, "clyde," I'm SO surprised you're commenting on this. Please, explain for the people in the cheap seats how building a field on par with most other school districts in the county qualifies as "professional-style facilities"? Will it have seating for thousands, luxury boxes, separate practice facilities, several bars and a sushi stand? Do us all a favor and take your acerbic commentary somewhere else, nobody here wants to listen to your bitterness or hyperbole.
Bob Venezia January 09, 2013 at 07:33 PM
Mr. Brancato, I have not done any research on how much it would cost to replace the current fields with sod instead of turf. However, I can tell you how much we are paying to maintain the existing grass fields. According to Mr. Gaveglio, Supervisor of Maintenance for the Board of Education, "The fields that may be converted cost approximately $15,500 each per year to maintain". I believe that the $200,000 that I mentioned above is on the conservative side, but it would be fair to reduce that amount by the $31,000 cost to maintain the grass fields. The net result is that the annual maintenance costs associated with the installation of all of the items included in the referendum will add at least $170,000 each year to the regular school budget. Bob Venezia
Analli Citall January 09, 2013 at 08:09 PM
Can anyone tell me how we rank comparable to all the other schools in Morris County academically. Who gives a rat's a$$ who has turf fields or not? Why don't we compare how we do academically versus those around us before worrying about turf. Do all of you look around at your neighbors before going to buy a car? Before fixing up your house? If all of you have to keep up with the Jones let's try to make sure that we are keeping all of our schools towards the top of the academic standards as well.
Julie Pace Lipss January 09, 2013 at 10:07 PM
I will be voting yes. By increasing the quality of our schools, we increase the value of our homes. Every child in the schools will benefit whether they play sports or not as these fields will also be utilized in PE classes. Currently, our fields are used only 14-16 times per year. $30,000.00 in maintenance is very high when you consider cost per use. The track at PHS is not only unsightly, it's dangerous. This project will give all of us another reason to take Pride In Parsippany.
Beth Bluj January 09, 2013 at 11:14 PM
Bob - I know that you and I have worked hard to come to an agreement and I respect everything you are saying. However, there are a few things that I question regarding your article: Did you factor in the cost of continuing to bus kids to the turf fields? I would expect that if the conditions of these fields stay the same or get worse, that price is going to increase substantially Not quite sure on why there needs to be added security - the only time a security guard is at the field is during a football game and that is just to control those trying to park where they are not supposed to In the longer days of spring/summer - lights will not be needed as many hours, so I don't believe that $80,000 is completely accurate Please find me a heated bathroom at a field LOL Also in regards to your post to Mr. Brancato - why do you think our fields look the way they do? It is quite obvious that $15,000 is not cutting it. So, if nothing gets done, this board will have no choice but to increase the amount they currently put into maintaining the fields. Not to mention the fact that this board should be compelled to make these facilities ADA compliant regardless of the outcome. And, the track at the High has to be replaced. Again, I completely respect all that you say. However, I do need to point out some things that also need to be considered.
Mike January 09, 2013 at 11:23 PM
Let's get people to help senior citizens get to the polling places. Get the word out to them so they get a chance to get their vote heard. This project will be an ever ending tax problem assessed to the citizens of Parsippany. Just remember that after ten years or a little more that turf will need to be replaced. There are enough turf fields around town for these teams to play on. Parsippany is our town and these kids should get first use of the fields before any soccer club or out of town team. Vote no on this referendum.
Beth Bluj January 09, 2013 at 11:43 PM
Mike - What makes you think that the seniors are against this? What makes you think that they are not aware of it? I bet you more seniors are aware of what is going on than most people. I have personally talked to some that are completely on board. I think making an assumption such as that is a very negative statement towards the seniors.
Beth Bluj January 10, 2013 at 12:22 AM
Also - who ever said out of town teams are going to use these fields? That has never been mentioned once from the BOE. They said, "IF time allows, they would CONSIDER allowing TOWN teams to use the fields"
Analli Citall January 10, 2013 at 12:40 AM
Every time there is a game (unless it is Parsippany versus Parsippany Hills) an out of town team will be using the fields.
parhome January 10, 2013 at 12:40 AM
Can county track meets be held? Will the track be 6 or 8 lanes? Thanks
Beth Bluj January 10, 2013 at 12:56 AM
Tracks will be 6 lanes which I believes qualifies them to hold a county meet. However, I do not know if it is like football, where the hosting school has to be seeded higher than it's competitors. In regards to all teams other than 'hills/high' being from out of town - that is 100% correct. However, if a team is coming to play one of our school teams - they do not have to pay or get a permit to use the field. I believe Mike was referring to out of town teams coming just to use our fields in which they would have to apply and pay for a permit. The township offers that - the school BOE has no reason to. That was one of the biggest pushes for those opposed to the original FOD project - to make sure that the BOE maintained control of their own fields.
Bob Venezia January 10, 2013 at 01:12 AM
Beth, There will be no busing related savings associated with the turf fields. It is true that teams currently using Veteran's and Jannerone Parks would be able to use the new fields. However, not all sports, and not all levels (varsity, JV, freshmen, boys and girls) can be accomodated by the turf fields. The ones that can't will quickly lock up the vacted slots at veteran's and Jannerone. The amount of busing will remain the same, the only difference will be the teams that are being transported. Regarding security, I assumed (maybe incorrectly) that there would be some kind of security presence at any night game. At a minimum, someone with authority needs to make sure that fans and players vacate the field in an orderly fashion and in a reasonable amount of time after activities are finished for the night. I believe that the lighting costs are reasonable and maybe a little conservative. They are based on an average of 4 hours of use per night (6:00pm - 9:00pm with a 30 minute power up time and an extra 30 minutes at the end for everyone to leave). As you stated, the lights will not be needed for as many hours in the spring/summer, but longer hours of usage in the fall/winter will offset that. 4 hours seems to be a reasonable average. Lastly, heating the bathrooms is not as funny as it sounds. We are now talking about a permanent bathroom structure with built-in plumbing. If heat is not provided during the cold months, water will freeze and the pipes will burst.
Analli Citall January 10, 2013 at 01:26 AM
Beth, During the FOD conversations there was talk that 8 lanes was not necessary and to save money they were going to only use 6 lanes. But if you look at the drawings on the BOE site there are 8 lanes in both sets of drawings for PHHS and PHS. Are you sure there are only going to be 6 lanes. Are saying that the drawings on the BOE site are wrong? I think you may be mistaken and the BOE has decided to upgrade the tracks to 8 lanes during the rebuild.
Beth Bluj January 10, 2013 at 01:37 AM
Analil - The referendum scope specifically says 6 lanes. I can only go by what I read and would suggest that you send that question directly to the board as they are the ones that can answer that best.
Beth Bluj January 10, 2013 at 01:41 AM
Thanks Bob. I still tend to disagree on the busing. The only reason kids are bused now is because they cannot use the fields. With the BOE's plan on scheduled times, all teams should be able to get in their practices/games. And, honestly, the only teams that really get precedent to being bused are the Varsity teams. The JV and freshmen teams, while important, do take a back seat in the grand scheme. The only big draw for security is going to be a night football game or a hills/high soccer game - and either would have a security guard regardless of turf or not, day or night. Other sports simply do not draw the crowds. Also, if the game is at night that means it's not during the day - so it's just a wash on the security guard any way. We have to remember too, that football is just about the only sport played at night. You may have a soccer game here or there - but not often. So I do not believe there will be the need for increased security; and if there is, it is minimal at best. Regarding the lights - I re-read your estimates and I still think that they are high, but it is obvious you have researched this aspect more than me.
Analli Citall January 10, 2013 at 01:49 AM
Yeah, I see what you are referring to. The words on page 1 state 6 lanes. The drawing on page 2 shows 8 lanes. Guess we'll find out when they build it.
Beth Bluj January 10, 2013 at 01:11 PM
I just re-read the proposal, and the proposal also calls for 6 lanes. I feel safe in saying the tracks are going to be 6 lanes - not 8.
Natalie Davis (Editor) January 10, 2013 at 02:19 PM
Ladies, the folks at the district insist it's six. You could be looking at an old drawing. Initially, they were trying for eight.
NHM January 11, 2013 at 01:55 AM
Many Seniors, some disabled and the unemployed who live in Parsippany live on low fixed incomes. Property taxes have recently gone up and so did Medicare. They may support the fields project in theory but cannot afford another cent in tax increase.
Beth Bluj January 11, 2013 at 03:02 AM
Then they have to vote as they see fit and I respect that.

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