January 24, 2013 at 7:04 AM
LIVINGSTON, NJ - The Livingston Board of Education Wednesday night unanimously voted to hold a referendum to give residents the opportunity to make their voices heard on potentianl construction at the elementary school and high school.
After the board members explained each of their views on the potential construction referendum, they each voted “yes.” On March 12, there will be a special school district election so town residents can provide whether they are for or against the plan.
If the town votes in favor of the referendum, the budget for the project’s estimated cost is $18.1 million.
Board member Ronnie Spring said that by voting “yes” he and his fellow board members are not voting to spend $18 million, they are voting to allow residents to make the decision.
Member Leslie Winograd agreed and added that for the town’s public education longevity, the referendum is necessary.
“For the long term health of this school district, this is the right thing to do,” Winograd said.
New addition to the Board of Education, David Jasin told attendees that due to his years of experience "wearing several hats," he has made an informed decision that the construction is necessary.
New member Pam Chirls voiced her original concern with the referendum, but after she and other board members toured the schools with Superintendent Brad Draeger, she changed her mind.
“What I discovered really surprised me. Every classroom and multi-purpose space is being used in every elementary school,” Chirls said.
Before and after members voiced their votes, the public were given a chance to comment about the topic. All but two were opposed to the referendum and the “tight” time frame in which the public will be expected to make a decision.
“I’m absolutely flabbergasted we’re moving this quickly. To move this quick and not have a full understanding doesn’t seem like a viable solution," said resident Steve Fleischer.
Robert Clark agreed and added his concern over the already existing debt Livingston is in.
“We’re already in $105 million of debt, how much more do you want to go in and how much do you need this to add even more debt to the town?” Clark asked board members.
Board member Barry Funt assured residents that they had very valid comments and questions and suggested that a public forum be granted to those who want further information or questions answered.
“This isn’t a decision that is being taken lightly at all,” Funt said.
Draeger explained to attendees that all of their questions will be answered.
“I will take a personal responsibility to make sure there is a public forum,” Draeger said. “We have a huge task ahead of us depending on how the town votes.”