Dear Editor,

My name is Frank Belgiovine. I own 140 Overlook Avenue and 140 Comet Way. For over 40-years I have built public and educational facilities and I know about construction costs and cost overruns. I had no knowledge of this nor received any notice that such a mammoth project was being planned until Ms. Spathe phoned me to ask if I was attending a meeting being held with the BOE members last week.

The BOE claim that they notified everyone by putting it on their website and in the newspaper legal section. Why would anyone including non-English reading taxpayers look to the website or read the newspaper legal section if they didn’t know the referendum existed? My property is 50 feet away and I didn’t know it existed. This process has been on the low-down and seriously lacks transparency. The BOE should have sent some type of notice to the neighboring property owners since we too pay the bills for the schools or at minimum put up signs outside the HS.

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My concerns are taxes, operating costs, traffic and size of the project. The BOE is advertising the project cost at $169,000,000, instead of the true cost that will top $274,000,000 once the interest is added. Plus, a larger facility will cost more to furnish, operate and manage; with increased staff, payroll, benefits, insurance, security, technology, utilities, maintenance contracts, etc. Our tax bills will increase at least 3 times the BOE estimate. Hackensack is the subject of high real estate tax jokes, it has of the highest real estate taxes in New Jersey. This referendum must not pass.

It is impossible to precisely cost out such a large “public” project at this early stage without detailed plans; there are always unforeseen underground conditions, or the Owner failed to inform the architect of everything they needed. Renovation of older buildings always encounter numerous surprises, i.e. (unknown structural defects discovered during demolition; asbestos, lead, etc.).

Recently I found out that the proposed garage is contrary to what the planning board recommended. There is no precise number of spaces and levels proposed. A multi-level garage for school kids is not safe for school children and would be too costly to operate and make secure. The in and out traffic from the garage is from Comet Way which is a small single lane, one-way street that already handles several hundred cars daily from the hige hi-rise buildings and HS. It would increase traffic by 350+ cars more.

The BOE claims that increasing enrollment created the necessity for a new school. by their own admission only 8 students attend from the 400+/- units at Avalon Hackensack at Riverside. Based on this, there should only be 20-30 more generated from the apartments being built.

More people are leaving NJ because it’s too expensive to live in. Millennials are not creating households. How does this increase enrollment? The BOE claims they lose the $40+ million in state aid without this referendum, but they don’t say that we pay for that too. They claim that with no referendum it would cost $2,000,000 annually to send students to other schools. At this rate we could send students to other schools for over 100-years. Stop taking kids from other towns and we’ll have enough space to accommodate any enrollment increase.

STOP this referendum and only renovate the existing schools.

Sincerely,

Frank Belgiovine