WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange Board of Education (WOBOE) recently voted unanimously in favor of a resolution opposing the delay of the transmission of quarterly property tax revenues to school districts during gubernatorial-declared emergencies.
The board explained during a recent Zoom meeting that public schools rely on local property taxes collected by municipalities, which constitutes approximately 60 percent of public school revenue on average. If the bill, which is currently pending in the state legislature, is signed into law as written, the delay in payments from municipalities would result in a financial crisis for school districts that rely on the continued transmission of school property taxes for the educational process to continue smoothly.
“There’s a lot of good intent there,” said WOBOE President Ken Alper, adding that the bill would allow municipalities to delay other financial-related deadlines as well, but that it has “created some concern [statewide] because of the idea that there will be districts that are left short and are going to have real problems meeting their bills.”
The board ultimately decided to oppose the bill in solidarity with more than 600 school districts in New Jersey that could be affected by the current stipulation. However, the WOBOE also voted to alert the state senate and Gov. Phil Murphy to the current language in the bill.
During the discussion, Alper recognized that the bill might become necessary in the municipalities where people who currently are out of work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and are unable to pay taxes.
Despite voting in favor of the resolution to oppose the bill, WOBOE Vice President Terry Trigg-Scales mentioned that the senate is “in the process of coming up with another stimulus package to help states and municipalities.”
Alper also mentioned a pending meeting with West Orang Councilwoman Michelle Casalino and Chief Financial Officer John Gross, where the attendees will discuss the issues that township expects to face as a result of the pandemic.
In other news, the WOBOE also voted unanimously to approve a five-year contract with energy conservation company Cenergistic, LLC. Business Administrator John Calavano explained that the vote comes at the culmination of a discussion about using this company to reduce energy costs beyond the Energy Savings Improvement Program (ESIP) that the district had previously adopted.
“This program helps the school district minimize energy consumption by using our equipment and buildings in the most efficient manner for our needs while improving comfort for the occupants,” said Calavano.
Unlike the ESIP—which was used for certain capital projects, including roof replacements and retrofitting lighting throughout the district—Calavano said this newly approved program will “create a culture of conservation” and train staff on how to optimize energy.
“We will hire an energy manager, [and] that person will get to know the buildings; they will go through the buildings [at] different times, [including] nights and weekends, to make sure things that are supposed to be off isn’t on, and they will begin training staff to start conserving energy,” said Calavano.
He elaborated that Cenergistic will work closely with the West Orange Buildings and Grounds Department and will also work with all staff members, including teachers, to encouraging them to save energy and also teach students about energy conservation.
According to Calavano, Cenergistic guarantees a net savings of $1.014 million over the five-year period—starting with $121,000 in the first year and gradually increasing until savings reach $263,400 in year five.
“If we can’t make those savings, then they have to cut a check for the balance of those savings,” said Calavano.
After speaking with school districts in Long Branch and Manchester and hearing endorsements by the New Jersey School Administrators Association, Calavano said the West Orange district believed that it would be beneficial to move forward with the program being offered by Cenergistic.
Calavano added that savings are expected to continue after the five-year period, but there will be no need to renew the contract.
Trigg-Scales praised the company’s messaging and said that she was glad that the district was taking a step toward becoming more sustainable.
The next WOBOE meeting will be held virtually on Monday at 5:30 p.m. For more information, visit woboe.org.