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School Board Approves $125,000 for Stadium Lights Infrastructure; No Layoffs, Taxes Rising


William E. Cleary Sr. | CNBNewsnet

6a00d8341bf7d953ef01b7c731d077970bGLOUCESTER CITY N.J.—The Gloucester Board of Education at their May 5 meeting approved  a project change order for the new middle school to include field lighting for the stadium. The $125,000 electrical contract was awarded to New Middle School Contractor Terminal Construction by Ray Angelini, Inc.  The contract calls for the installation of underground conduits, furnish and install Musco Light Standard bases, furnish and install Musco Lighting Controller, distribution of wiring from the controller to lights and distribution from main electrical room to lighting controller.

Local taxpayers will be paying for this project as the lighting for the new stadium with a synthetic turf jogging track was not included in the overall $87 million cost for the school construction. The lighting for the high school stadium located just a few blocks away cost over $200 hundred thousand in 2009. 

Related: More carcinogens found on N.J. school's athletic fields

CNBNews reported in November 2015 that the Board had plans to light up the Middle School Stadium. At the time, Board member William Johnson Jr., a member of the Finance Committee was asked why students at the new Middle School would need a lighted athletic field, especially since there is one already at the high school. Besides the high school, there are also five lighted fields at the Johnson Blvd. sports complex.

Johnson, who said he was speaking on behalf of himself, not the Board replied, “I believe it will benefit the Middle School, the youth of this City, our community groups, and the businesses in town. Having lights on the field will allow the school sports, marching band, and even local youth sports to host night events. These events will bring visitors to our town and maybe they will stay afterward to support our restaurants in the area. I also believe that having lights will totally complete the turf, all-purpose (soccer, football, field hockey, track) athletic field. This field will be the best athletic field in this area, adding lights will allow us to get full use out of it.”

“As I understand it, the funds come out of the Capital Improvement Account and can only be used for improvement purposes.  We cannot use that money to offset other costs like personnel, which was specifically asked by another member.”

 “The reason we are doing this now and not until after completion of the school is because they haven't started to build the field. It is wide open to install the necessary infrastructure including conduit, wiring, and the bases for the light standards.  If we decided to wait, the company would have to dig up parts of the field, concrete, and landscaping only to then reinstall what they dug up possibly doubling the cost.  Waiting would also affect the operation of the school during the installation if it were open.”

From the very beginning when the school was first proposed residents living near the new Middle School were not happy that it was being built in their neighborhood. Now to learn that they are going to have to deal with a lighted athletic stadium is upsetting them even more. 

 For example, Dawn Watson commented, “What about those of us living nearby? This is a residential area. We will be "blinded by the light" most of the time. And what do we get in return? Higher taxes, more noise, more trash...not fair.”

 Resident said, “It is obvious they don't care about the people living in that westside neighborhood or anywhere else in the city. If they did this multi-million dollar school would never have been built. One-hundred families were uprooted from this area to make way for this ugly looking structure. All they had to do was repair the ME Costello, it would have been cheaper.”

Larry commented, “I live in that neighborhood and no one asked me or anyone else who lives near this "blot on the landscape" if we want a lighted football field in our neighborhood. Why don't we have a say? None of us were aware that there was going to be a lighted stadium field built with this school.”

J said, ”Besides overkill on the lighted athletic fields I would like to add is there any town or city in the country that has two running tracks blocks from each other? Even cities that have hosted the Olympics do not have two tracks in that close proximity.”

Barb Bocchicchio, “The money issue is a disgrace, but there are also other issues regarding this school. They made the decision to build it in the middle of a residential area without any thought to the problems it will cause for residents. Parking is already a nightmare in this part of the city and I'll bet it's going to get a lot worse. And now they want "visitors" to come in, at night, to make it even more of a mess. And come on, we all know that this has to make taxes go sky high! They CANNOT sustain the cost of upkeep without doing so.”

Living on a fixed income remarked, “This is the school that so many board members said was not needed. But they said we are stuck with it. Now we learn that these same individuals have been piling on extras to the athletic field. Shame on them. Ridiculous to have an elementary school with a lighted athletic field. Nor should it be a turf field. We are not Cherry Hill or Haddonfield. We are Gloucester City. When I was in school we walked to the Charles Street Stadium for gym class. Let these kids walk to the high school if they want lights.”

Maryanne Heath, "This kind of spending assumes that all individuals and businesses are paying their taxes. Given the amount of foreclosures for taxes in this State, it appears that there would be some pretty serious budget shortfalls. They can only raise taxes on the people who actually pay them so much to make up the difference. As long as there are taxpayers who don't even use the schools paying for them, the sky is the limit. If you take those people out of the equation, and charge the people who actually use the schools, the carefree spending would stop immediately."

RELATED: Spending Extra to Light Middle School Field

EDITORIAL: Eventually, The Well Will Run Dry

 In other matters, a rumor circulating about a high school nurse being laid off resulted in a large crowd of supporters attending the Thursday night meeting held in the media room at the high school. However, from what we have been able to learn no such action was taken.

CNBNews contacted Superintendent Joseph Rafferty for a comment regarding the rumor prior to the meeting. When we didn’t receive a response we asked the Superintendent again on Friday about the rumored layoff. Rafferty said via email, “Bill when you get information from your sources sometimes they have the freedom to comment on topics and issues that due to my position I have to wait for the proper time to speak. I could not speak to your question until the full Board of Education had the opportunity to meet and discuss all the information that I needed to  present to them.”

 The 2016-2017 *does not have the school district eliminating any positions from the school district.  The School Board discussed all the aspect of the budget and made an informed  decision after they had all the data and number associated with the school budget.”  

I apologize for those people who sometimes do not know all the details. It is always very difficult to follow the correct procedures and guidelines to protect all the staff members of the school district. Thank you as always for your patience and understanding.” 

(*emphasis Rafferty)

 At the same meeting the School Board committees for the upcoming fiscal year were announced.  

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The Board of Education approved the budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year. According to Margaret McDonnell, Gloucester City School District Business Administrator this year’s budget totals $47,627,539 or $461,127 more that last year’s figure of $47,166,412. As a result, a homeowner assessed at the average city assessment of $108,000 will pay $31.97 more annually. The Local Tax Levy for the 2016-17 fiscal school year is $5,277,609 or $992,119 more than last year's figure of $4,235,490.  A breakdown of the budget appears below. 

Related: Gloucester School Taxes Rising 

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The Board of Education approved the payment of bills for the month of April totaling $3,960,087 which includes $3,735,020 for payroll.

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