Montclair officials: we need details to move $ 60 million schools plan forward
By TALIA WIENER
A $ 60 million bond plan to update Montclair Public School facilities remains on hold, while the body responsible for formally setting the amount to be collected awaits documents from the school district, according to members of the school district. municipal Council.
August 16, Montclair school board approved $ 57 million bail resolution in building renovations – $ 60 million, including costs associated with issuing the bond. The upgrades were identified this spring in a long-term development plan. They include work on buildings in the district, including on aging and sometimes missing ventilation systems that played a key role in the drama over the return of students and staff to schools last year.
This started the process of moving forward, sending the matter to the Montclair School Board estimate to fix and formally determine the costs of the projects. After that, the city council would pass a bond ordinance.
The school board resolution was a reversal for the board members. It came weeks after board members said there wouldn’t be enough time to tie up a small list of installations work, with an estimated price tag of $ 17 million, before voters be urged to consider changing the form of Montclair School District – and with that, the bonding process.
Montclair currently has what’s called a Type I school district – where the mayor appoints school board members, and the school board’s estimate sets the tax rate and budget. The BoSE, made up of members of the school board, the board and the CEO, also approves funding for capital improvements before sending it to the board.
In November, voters will decide if Montclair should immediately become a Type II district. This would establish an elected school board, dissolve the school board estimate, and put bonds for capital projects before voters by referendum.
But the council remains responsible for carrying out its duties despite upcoming elections which could eliminate the BoSE, Mayor Sean Spiller said at the city council meeting on Tuesday.
“The second these votes are counted, if it remains as is, we have done our due diligence and [the BoSE] would continue, âSpiller said. âIf that changes, it will change immediately. But until then we have a load and we are doing our job. “
With just over a month to go, board members say they’re still waiting for more information from the school district to move forward.
A list of projects has been submitted by the school district, but the BoSE still needs a more complete breakdown, with specific dollar amounts tied to specific projects and a list of priorities for those projects, the city councilor wrote. Peter Yacobellis in a message to the community Tuesday evening. . Yacobellis has been a proponent of large-scale installation work in schools and moving forward with the projects despite the impending elections.
Council members asked the district for this information, “on ‘what do you need and how can we get it to you,'” Deputy Mayor and BoSE Chairman Bill Hurlock told the council meeting. municipal Tuesday.
âTo this day, today, I still have no documents on what the claim is and what the supporting documents are asking for,â Hurlock said at the meeting. “But that’s what we’re here to work for”
Hurlock has yet to respond to phone messages left on his cell phone and work phone on Wednesday.
The Board of Education has moved forward to secure a BoSE meeting, BOE President Latifah Jannah said at Monday’s school board meeting. The Education Council is expected to hear of a meeting “shortly,” Jannah said.
Jannah has yet to respond to an email sent to her district on Wednesday with questions about the bail process.
Fourth Ward Councilor David Cummings was elected to the BoSE at Tuesday night’s council meeting, replacing Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager, who is stepping down. Third Ward Councilor Lori Price Abrams also sits on the Board of Directors.
Schlager and Price Abrams have yet to respond to emails sent to their advice addresses on Wednesday with questions about the bonding process.
âI think what’s most important is that we have someone who understands our school system,â said Cummings, who served on the board from 2013 to 2016, said at the meeting. . “We have to make sure that as we move forward with the business at hand, which may be short-lived, we can make it happen.”
Cummings referred inquiries for the story to Hurlock.
Yacobellis also recommended filling the vacant BoSE post at Tuesday’s meeting. As someone who hasn’t gone to Montclair schools or doesn’t have kids in the neighborhood, Yacobellis said, outside perspectives like his are “important and can add value.”
With Hurlock representing the first ward and Price Abrams representing the third ward, the selection of fourth ward councilor Cummings for the vacant position would leave Montclair’s second ward without direct representation, Yacobellis said.
Yacobellis said he or City Councilor Bob Russo, as council members in general, would be able to represent the second and fourth wards.
âI think it’s problematic, and I think it undermines the integrity of this institution,â Yacobellis said at the meeting. “As to how our government is structured or is supposed to function, I think that would be a disgrace.”
Yacobellis abstained from voting for Cummings on the BoSE.
BoSE actions are submitted to the board before they go into effect, Spiller said at Tuesday’s meeting.
“Each of us has the opportunity to vote on what the school board estimate takes out of our work and brings to us,” Spiller said.
Eric Scherzer, a member of the education board and chairman of its finance and facilities committee, declined to comment for this story. Board of Education vice-chair Priscilla Church and Superintendent Jonathan Ponds have yet to respond to emails sent to their district addresses on Wednesday with questions about the liaison process.