Bancroft Referendum Rejected by Voters

Voter turnout was heavy for the hotly contested $12.5 million referendum in Haddonfield.

Haddonfield voters rejected a $12.5 million bond referendum Tuesday for the public purchase of the 19.2-acre Bancroft property at 425 Kings Highway East.

The final vote was 2,387 against and 2,136 in favor of the referendum, according to unofficial returns. The total does not include provisional votes cast on Election Day, which could take up to two days to count.

"Who says you can't beat city hall?" said Brian Kelly of Haddonfield United, a group that spearheaded opposition to the proposal. "We really made our voices heard on this one."

Opponents said the purchase was overpriced and would just be the beginning of more tax increases needed to cover spiraling costs, none of which will be addressed with the Bancroft referendum, they say. The inclusion of $1.2 million for an artificial turf athletic field was also a point of contention with some.

"When you lose, there's lots of factors," BOE President Steve Weinstein said. "Turf was a factor, taxes was a factor, fears about Radnor was a factor."

In fact, Radnor Field may have been the key factor in deciding this referendum. The high school athletic field is located in the district that turned out the most no votes by far in voting Tuesday. The referendum went down by 218 votes in that district, 629 to 411. The referendum was defeated by a total of 251 votes, according to unofficial results.

Some residents there were concerned the school board would eventually try to sell Radnor if it developed more athletic fields on a newly acquired Bancroft property. The fear was it could be converted into residential housing, including an affordable-housing component.

Voter turnout was heavy in the hotly contested election. The rejection halts the joint public purchase of the property by the Board of Education and the borough. The total cost of the $16 million purchase and development plan was was reduced by at least $3.5 million in open-space preservation funds from the borough, county and state.

"That money is gone now,"  Commissioner Ed Borden, who also sits on the borough planning board, said about the preservation money. "The prospects for a public purchase are clearly dead. We have to step back and see what happens."

Bancroft officials released a statement Tuesday detailing what they intend to do next.

"We are excited to begin the process of modernizing our campus, so we can provide the best possible services here in Haddonfield for many, many years to come," said Toni Pergoin, Bancroft's president and CEO. "We know there will be challenges along the way, but we look forward to working proactively with borough representatives to make the process as smooth and positive as possible for everyone."

Proponents of the plan said the purchase was necessary "to seize the opportunity of acquiring this historic and prominent 'gateway into Haddonfield' for use by the community at large, for educational and recreational purposes, to allow for possible future school expansion and development of a high school campus, and to secure an open space legacy."

But in the end, the vision of what could be was outweighed by the concerns.

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Jim January 24, 2013 at 02:49 AM
Herb, roof repair should be done with out union wages triple the price so we need to work to keep the cost down. Simple maintenance should not cost thousand but hundreds of dollars. The Borough does not how to maintain the building and infra structure in town. Salaries are so high and pension cost and health cost are too high cap those costs going forward
David Siedell January 24, 2013 at 02:50 AM
So as I undertand it: Radnor, No. Scout, No. Crows Woods, Yes. Green Acres, Yes. Greenfield Hall, Yes. Trees at least in the historic district, maybe.
David Siedell January 24, 2013 at 02:52 AM
Susan, Do you have the report electronic? I'd love for everyone to be able to read it. It took on almost mythical meaning during the campaigns. Now that its over let's everyone read and discuss.
Herb Hess January 24, 2013 at 02:53 AM
Back room deal or no, the only question should be is this a good deal for the Boro. I recognize the financials risks highlighted by the No voters despite my own support. There was no experiment here. The COAH obligation has been known about for years and I believe you and many others will be surprised when Bancroft's actions force development to occur, this time behind Boro Hall or elsewhere downtown. As far as Radnor being safe, I can't agree with you on that point either. There is no guarantee that funding Municipal government will ever be a sustainable proposition. There may come a day when "focusing on fundamentals" while avoiding consolidation requires asset sales such as Radnor and/or eliminating redundant Elementary Schools.
Wayne Partenheimer January 24, 2013 at 03:53 AM
Well stated, Mark. I, too, voted "yes," but respect those who had different opinions. This is what democracy is all about.
Robert Little January 24, 2013 at 04:59 AM
I would respectively disagree with you Marie. I graduated in 86 from Cherry Hill High School East. We always looked upon our physically large and industrialized high school and thought wouldn't it be nice to attend a smaller and more intimate high school than our own. We, actually, and I am dating myself but... compared it to the High School that was the setting of "90210". By the way, my graduating class was roughly 800 kids and HMHS was about 130 during the same time. So, I believe it's not the physical size of the school that matters but the teachers, students, level of education and the socialization of our children that matters most. My kids will be entering High School in about 8 yrs. and I know that they will receive the best education possible even without the purchase of the Bancroft property.
JT January 24, 2013 at 11:11 AM
Jim I totally agree! Brandywine is a win for Haddonfield and this Bancroft situation will likely work out just fine with no acquisition cost to tax payers. Not only did we win the referendum, but we are also getting a new mayor! If we can only get rid of her sidekick (and his circle of cronies).
JT January 24, 2013 at 11:26 AM
Amen Jim!!
Joe Taxpayer January 24, 2013 at 01:20 PM
Jim, NO UNION wages for sure. Only problem in NJ is this thing called a law which requires all work to be prevailing wage whether it is union or not. No question it forces costs and thereby taxes to go up to pay for the work. In NJ, competition is stifled due to pro-union support. BTW, now that this issue is behind us. let's all educate ourselves on the budgets and where our high taxes are going so we can fight back. Sue, BOE and municipalities are covered by separate laws. Some town's and BOE's have created shared service agreements so they can make improvements and access the open space funds which are only for municipal use. I know Bridgewater up north has done this. They have 4 turf fields I also want to see this report that has been discussed
Mrs. Silance Nogud January 24, 2013 at 02:51 PM
Great plan. Let's educate ourselves AFTER the vote fails. Typical.
Another voice January 24, 2013 at 03:31 PM
Classy reply Mark. I doff my hat to you.
Herb Hess January 24, 2013 at 03:37 PM
re: Maintenance costs - it may be a good idea to see what needs to be repaired before we figure out what the costs will be. If, for example, floors need to be refinished or replaced (given that they are heavily used for 3 quarters of each year every year) then we're talking about a substantial job, same with roofs, repainting, etc. We already use shared services, Joe T, between the Boro and the BOE. This has been very cost effective for us. Example is when the BOE maintenance staff repainted our Library two years ago, saving us from paying prevailing wage to an outside contractor. We simply paid the wages we would have paid anyway.
Susan Hoch MD January 24, 2013 at 04:20 PM
Reply to Dave, No I do not have the report. It is possible that someone in Haddonfield United does. I am sure Steve Weinstein does and if we had open government, it should be shared with the voters. I am considering going to the next B of E meeting and asking for it if no one has it. I was pleased to see that Haddonfield United has been documenting photographically some of the neglect and hope this continues. My suggestion would actually be that the B of E publish the maintenance needs and list them in order of priority. Some things, such as repainting rooms could actually be done on a day of service. We have a day of service for MLK in which people often go and paint and fix up school buildings and parks. I believe the town could harness the energy of the citizens with a Day of Service for Haddonfield to get some of the stuff done, cleanup of the downtown area, parks and minor repairs that we do not apparently have the money for.
Mrs. Silance Nogud January 24, 2013 at 04:39 PM
The "Secret Plan" is available and was shared with all of the voters. Here's the link: http://www.haddonfield.k12.nj.us/Home_Page_Attachments/LongRangeFaciltiesPlan.pdf Of course, most people did not read it (Yes and No), but it looks like a significant amount of the $28M in repairs has already taken place, and the rest are planned as a part of the normal "routine" maintenance and is included in the annual capital budget.
Mrs. Silance Nogud January 24, 2013 at 04:43 PM
The "Secret Plan" is available and was shared with all of the voters. Here's the link: http://www.haddonfield.k12.nj.us/Home_Page_Attachments/LongRangeFaciltiesPlan.pdf Of course, most people did not read it (Yes and No), but it looks like a significant amount of the $28M in repairs has already taken place, and the rest are planned as a part of the normal "routine" maintenance and is included in the annual capital budget.
David Siedell January 24, 2013 at 06:53 PM
Silance, That is the 2005 Long Range plan for future need, not the July 2012 Garrison study. I would hope many of the items had already been addressed. The loom 28M issue was out there, and it is still there. I have seen the report. Over 18M is for maintenance items much like this 2005, and similarly can and will be addressed through the normal budget process. Evidence that there were no huge immediate problems is the 0% increase in the BOE budget for this current year when they could have gone to 2% without even a vote. Some arguments didn't add up on the YES and NO sides. I'm for getting everyone a chance to see the report and make up their own mind. Neither side wanted to share the report broadly.
Mrs. Silance Nogud January 24, 2013 at 07:06 PM
My mistake. I agree that the more information, the better. Since you saw the report, do you have any insight into the items that made up the $10M of "unfunded" items that would need to addressed in the 5 year window, or any insight into items that are a "Must Do" vs. "Nice to Have"?
Brian Kelly January 24, 2013 at 11:09 PM
I have the report. It was issued by Garrison Architects in June 2012. The BOE has stated it was a wish list and some of it is, such as a playground but the vast majority of it is essential repairs. Allow me to list a small sampling. Elizabeth Haddon Roof replacement/rear section $750,500 Security cameras $50,000 Replace existing boilers $250,000 Replace (2) roof top units $200,000 Central School replace existing boilers $250,000 HVAC constuction $312,000 electrical construction $62,000 (level one) HVAC constuction $375,000 (level two) Electrical constuction $93,000 (level two) security cameras $50,000 Middle school Emergency generator $200,000 security cameras $50,000 Exterior renovations $312,000 Interior renovations $881,000 HVAC construction $718,750 (level two) Electrical construction $750,000 (level two) Tatum Replace existing boilers $250,000 security cameras $25,000 renovate toilets $100,000 High school - With exterior and interior renovations, HVAC construction, electrical constuction ($2,523 750 alone) and plumbing the cost is 7,423,750 million. Just on the first level alone. Feel free to present these facts to the BOE.
Bumpkin January 24, 2013 at 11:25 PM
Wow... it's OVER kids! I sure would love to meet Mrs. Silance Ishgulden on this topic.
Jack S January 25, 2013 at 12:00 AM
A copy of the report is here: http://haddonfieldunited.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/haddonfield-schools-ga-1.pdf
Mrs. Silance Nogud January 25, 2013 at 12:23 AM
So where are the details? Why can't anyone publish the details of the report? Are all of these investments required urgently? What is the gap between normal investments in maintaining infrastructure that are already accounted for in the operating budget of the BOE vs. additional capital investments that would require securing funds outside of current funding? It's not that I don't trust you, but I would like to do the math myself.
Mrs. Silance Nogud January 25, 2013 at 12:31 AM
Bumpkin- Help Brian Kelly with his math.
Mrs. Silance Nogud January 25, 2013 at 12:44 AM
I guess I'm being censored now since my last couple of posts didn't show up, but I would like the details of the "Garrison Report", so I can do the math myself.
Susan Hoch MD January 25, 2013 at 01:41 AM
Jack S 7:00 pm on Thursday, January 24, 2013 As Jack S said above and perhaps you did not see his report A copy of the report is here: http://haddonfieldunited.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/haddonfield-schools-ga-1.pdf You can do your own math. And you can also wonder why it is left to Haddonfield United to inform the public about school board reports. You would think that would be the responsibility of the elected school board members since they serve us and should answer to us, the voters.
Mrs. Silance Nogud January 25, 2013 at 02:13 AM
Thanks Doctor- I will take a look.
Martin Helsig January 25, 2013 at 02:20 AM
reposting from a later article The BOE, the Commissioners, and the developers all told the residents that in order to prepare for our future we needed to shoulder the costs of this development. Not once did I hear any of the triumvirate mention what they were going to do to help ease the cost of this project. What expenses could the BOE or our town cut to help the greater good of the community? What spending cuts would the BOE make? Everyone else in the private sector pays for benefits and their retirement. Why can't the public sector in Haddonfield do the same? Or how about our public works department or our town halls combine with other municipalities to help ease costs? Nope. It was always "we need to do this for the future, and YOU taxpayers need to pay this." This expectation is not realistic today. The private sector is tired of supporting everyone else while their standard of living stagnates. In any negotiation you have to give some in order to get something in return. That did not happen and a poorly communicated plan by our public servants resulted in the defeat of a great idea
David Siedell January 25, 2013 at 03:49 AM
Brian, That report is in a 10 year scope. The last was done in 2005. It was only commissioned early for Building And grounds chair could have a sense of the Bancroft purchase would have on the capital plan. The number of 18M in repairs is not in dispute. Over a 10 year period we normally spend 20M (roughly 2 M per year on a budget of 36M) so over 10 years we spend 20M on a budget of 360 Million. Hardly reckless spending. Capital expenditures are peanuts in the grand view of the school budget where labor costs, not including benefits, are 70% of the budget. That too although good for shock value makes sense, the school is about the people, the teachers. We laid off the custodians 2 years ago to great savings. Maybe not having dedicated resources that you can get more worth from is a cause of the current "decay" you point out on Haddonfield United. I'm not even disputing the current condition, but it is an effect of responsible fiscal management that caused the layoffs in the first place. I agreed it was better than laying off teachers, but there is a cost to every decision. Case in point, the Lizzie Haddon roof and painting projects are already complete. That finished this summer.
David Siedell January 25, 2013 at 03:53 AM
Jack, Thanks for posting. I'd encourage any interested party to review the report. Please keep in mind the time period scope of long term capital reports is 10 years. Also keep in mind we spend roughly 2M from the general budget of 36M yearly on capital repairs. The same budget that had a ZERO percent increase last year.
Brian Kelly January 25, 2013 at 04:25 AM
Silance, The math is written directly from the Garrison presentation. I didn't add everything to the final tally because it would take to much time. If you want copy go on HaddonfieldUnited@hotmail.com, give me your address and I'll send you Garrison's final workup.
Brian Kelly January 25, 2013 at 04:56 AM
Dave, The bottom line is how many of the repairs are essential today and how much more they'll be down line. BOE or Borough, they are both inept at maintaining the infrastructure of the town. Our next big expense is the water system. These were just some of factors that contributed to the no vote to Bancroft. We have to fix what we have before we take on more debt. As much as I commend the BOE for meeting the educational needs of our students, the thought of them taking on a 23 acre sports campus with their track record of maintenance was unacceptable. Before we pursue any vision of the future we have to make sure our house is in order.


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