Take close look at referendum

I am a current board member of the Marlboro K-8 School District Board of Education and my comments are my personal views and opinions as I do not speak on behalf of the entire board.

On Sept. 26, the taxpayers will, for the third time, be asked to cast their vote for a referendum for infrastructure repairs to the schools. A November 2015 attempt at passing a $40 million school referendum failed in the polls and included repairs to our infrastructure and major construction to the David C. Abbott Early Learning Center to accommodate full-day kindergarten.

In November 2016, a $26.3 million referendum was also voted down at the polls and that included the same infrastructure repairs as the previous failed attempt without the construction to the early learning center as our administration quickly found space in our existing schools for full-day kindergarten.

This is exactly what should have been done originally; presenting alternative cost-effective solutions and presenting them to the board.

Since the two previous referendums failed that included the same list of repairs, I personally resent that the board decided to hold this third attempt with a special election instead of waiting another six weeks for the general election in November.

To me, this is an insult to our taxpayers as the rationale is that those coming out to vote would do so for the sole purpose of the referendum and would not be confused or distracted by other items on the ballot. The final cost of this election is still unknown.

The last two failed times the referendum was voted on was during the November general election because the board and administration wanted to be fiscally responsible. I still want to be fiscally responsible and although I voted against this third attempt, I feel that it should be held during the general election.

While it was a majority of the board members who voted for this third attempt, regardless of taxpayers voting no twice already, I must point out that five voted in favor and four did not; certainly not an overwhelming decision.

I found the Sept. 6 guest column about the need for the Marlboro school referendum a bit misleading for the following reasons:

• While some of our schools do have older equipment that could use updating, the safety and learning environment of our children is certainly not negatively impacted.

• While our budget is not able to support more than $26 million worth of repairs, I question how necessary and emergent these repairs are for the following reasons: we are still talking about the same issues for the past several years, so how emergent are they; we only received one assessment by our current architects and engineers; and claims that all the parts for our older equipment are not available are not true.

• The state will provide 40 percent of the cost for approved infrastructure projects and this is something that has been in place for quite some time and there is absolutely no indication that will cease if this referendum fails for a third time.

• It is stated that the referendum will not raise taxes. I do not believe in words of deception. The referendum will not increase taxes because the board is using $2.135 million from one of the reserve accounts to offset the increase. These funds exist from taxes already paid by our taxpayers and could be used to pay for a few true emergency repairs that may be incurred. However, taxes will continue to increase if the board continues to increase the annual budget up to the 2 percent cap they are allowed.

• The Sept. 6 guest column did not mention the specific necessary repairs and their associated costs. There is no proof the replacement of equipment within the scope of the referendum is not able to be repaired. This should be completely explored before going to the taxpayers for any money.

• I suggested to the board that we take a step back and address the sentiment of mistrust by many of those who elected us to our current positions by developing and implementing a maintenance plan and when needed, proposing future referendums for smaller amounts to fund necessary repairs and taking advantage of the state contribution of the 40 percent at that time to offset the cost. That was rejected.

On Sept. 26 you will, for the third time, have the opportunity to vote on a referendum that will contain the same items that were previously voted against twice. At what point should the board listen to the taxpayers, tighten their financial belts, develop and implement a short-term and long-term maintenance program and work toward gaining the trust of those who put us in office? Perhaps Sept. 26 is that time.

Craig Marshall of Marlboro is a member of the Marlboro K-8 School District Board of Education.