To the editor:

We are rapidly approaching the vote on the two referendums the Flemington-Raritan school board has proposed. After reviewing the presentations, Q&A, and board minutes, I find many unanswered questions regarding the plan and process. That the board has initiated such an aggressive marketing campaign should give everyone pause when considering these proposals.

First, the board expressly decided that no demographic study would be undertaken so it is likely repairs will be made on some schools that will not even be in service in 10 years while taxpayers are still paying for this bond. This is also true of many of the things placed in a 20 year bond such as public address systems, security cameras, phone systems and repairs to the parking lots and sidewalks. Many of these will be well beyond their lifespan before they are paid for. This is fiscally irresponsible.

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It appears to me that placing these items in a separate bond was done to get them paid for by holding the air conditioning updates parents want hostage to them.

Speaking of the air conditioning (AC), I searched the governmental website www.usclimatedata.com, and found that since 2016, there have been few school days when the temperature was 80oF or above: In 2016: 29 days with 3 during early dismissals; 2017: 21; 2018: 19 with 2 early dismissals and 2019: 20 with 1 early dismissal. Per the minutes, the mold issue was used to support new AC, but occurred in two schools that had AC. Should taxpayers really pay $20,308,019 so that there will be air conditioning for on average 20 school days a year? 20 days/year over 20 years is 400 days and this would cost $50,770/day—not counting the additional cost to run the units! Only in NJ does this math work! And if you include the other bond—that has to be passed for the AC to be done the cost goes to $105,157 per day. 

In addition, we are told that it isn’t possible to use window units as the electrical systems can’t support these modern era window AC units. If the electrical system is so bad in the schools why isn’t this being fixed first? Can you imagine the tragedy of a fire in one of our schools and the possible loss of life? How can the new security systems/communication systems and even the HVAC run on an old and faulty electrical system? Is this true or is it a ruse to get this bond passed?

The board tells us that the state will pay for 40 percent of this project but if you read the fine print it becomes, well maybe, sort of 40 percent, perhaps 35 percent or actually we don’t really know what we will get. So who pays the difference? Another bond proposal (e.g.tax increase?) to make up the difference?

Residents of Raritan Township pay some of the highest property taxes in the country and not because our township government overspends but because 48 percent of our taxes already go to the Flemington Raritan School District and another 24 percent to Hunterdon Central. This large tax increase will make more than half of the taxes go to Flemington-Raritan District with no end in sight. Think what will happen when District Superintendent Kari McGann asks for pay increases for herself and her staff. If this referendum had been done appropriately with a demographic study to determine which schools we will need and if only funding for long term projects was included in these bonds — not things that will be obsolete in 10 years — the school board and superintendent would show appropriate respect for the taxpayers who foot the bill. They have failed miserably.

The way this has been structured, one can only hope the public votes “no” and demands proper accountability. As Ms McGann likes to talk in military terms, she should be relieved of duty before she causes the rest of us to retreat (flee?) to better ground in another state.

Yolanda A. Cillo, M.D., M.B.A.

Raritan Township