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Haddonfield BOE Cuts $4.3 Million Off Bancroft Purchase

The cut was announced at a special meeting Tuesday.

The Haddonfield school board Tuesday slashed $4.3 million off the $16.8 million purchase and development price for the Bancroft property.

The price was reduced by cutting $800,000 for the installation of an artificial turf field for the high-school football stadium and the addition of an anticipated $3.5 million of state, county and municipal grant and open-space money. The high-school turf was taken out of the proposal after a borough citizens group raised $600,000 toward the $1 million cost to resurface the stadium field and an adjacent one.

It reduced the cost of the project to $12.5 million, about a third of the original $32.3 million for the public purchase and development of Bancroft rolled out a year ago.

Despite the reductions, some in a near-capacity audience of four dozen at the high-school library still challenged the wisdom of the purchase.

"It's a start," said Brett Harrison, a former school board member, about the $4.3 million reduction announced Tuesday. "If we had money, if we won the lottery, I'd say go for it. But you got a lot of people, older people looking at foreclosures on their homes, and sure you have super rich in Haddonfield, but Haddonfield is not made of the super rich."

Harrison was a one-term board member, from 1998 to 2001. He was elected after a referendum to build an elementary school at Scout Field, a BOE athletic site, was rejected.

The 2.5-hour meeting was at times testy, but generally civil as about a dozen residents commented on the proposal to buy the 19-acre Bancroft property, adjacent to the high school.

School board President Steve Weinstein said with a smile after the meeting, "We are a responsive body. We listen to the people."

The board will finalize the language for a Jan. 22 bond referendum in a pubic meeting on Dec. 13.

Jack S November 28, 2012 at 12:07 PM
The property is valued at $6.5 to $8 million. So, the reduction above to $12.2 million is hardly a bargain. A separate $15.1 million appraisal assumed a use of the property that is not legally permitted, so it was clearly 'made-to-order' and can be discounted. In terms of the current proposal being a "third" of the price of a previous proposal, the current proposal is only phase 1. Future development of the property will cause the overall costs to make up much of the difference.
Jack S November 28, 2012 at 12:13 PM
I should add that the $3.5 million and approximately $600,000 reductions have long been anticipated. No surprises there. The $3.5 million is taxpayer money, so taxpayers at various levels of our State are footing that bill. The $600,000 is private turf-it money for the high school field, which has been removed from the Bancroft bond, but the balance of which will come from other public funds. What residents really need to ask is how much open space are we getting for $3.5 million? Why does the bond still contain $1.2 million (often previously reported as just $1 million) for turf at Bancroft, when the Board said last night it’s uncertain whether it will put turf there? And was it really necessary to put in the bond language that 10 affordable housing units will go at the Bancroft property?
Joe Taxpayer November 28, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Why doesn't someone ask the tax assessor to provide justification for the $12.2 million assessment. This is the official tax certified value and must have justification. If wrong, the town should correct it.
Tori November 28, 2012 at 01:47 PM
For me last night's meeting was interesting. Most interesting was that woman in the audience who stood up with a district document that showed 30,000,000 million in work the board is planning at the schools. The board member running the meeting looked like deer caught in the headlights. Acted like he'd never seen the document before and then tried to talk his way out of it. He said it was for things like updating a/c. Afterwards I looked at a copy of the document plan (June 2012) and it showed things like architectural drawings for ripping out the front lawn @ Tatem and putting in an asphalt area for parents to drop off their kids. Someone at the meeting said that everyone needs to know about those 30,000,000 costs ahead of time if we're voting on another 16,000,000 in January. A million here, ten million there, I suppose. How big is the pile going to get for Haddonfield folk who already pay 31,000,000 EVERY YEAR for the schools?
Joe Taxpayer November 28, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Tori, thanks for sharing. I couldn't make the meeting. It sounds like the list is of capital items that BOEs and munis are required to show in the budget docs. It's not spending 31M every year either. Capital is borrowed and paid back like a mortgage with Princ and Int. If you buy a new house with a $200k mortgage, you are not spending $200k every year. Take a look at page 57 of the PDF which shows township capex budget http://www.haddonfieldnj.org/pdf/2012_Adopted_Budget-State_Approved.pdf what else interesting occured? I will agree with some that the BOE has done a horrible job of presenting this and supporting it. I happen to understand more than they do so I get it but for the regular citizens who hear soundbites, it has been frustrating. If they are paying attention, they should take all the questions out there from Jack, Brian, Jeff H etc and answer them. Maybe we will all learn something new.
Tori November 28, 2012 at 02:36 PM
I saw s.t. on another article post from Jack S. Maybe this answers Joe Taxpayer's ques/comment? Not sure: "You're talking assessment and not actual market value. At any rate that assessment was developed in 2006-2007 at the height of the real estate market. The land was assessed at only $9.6 million. The balance was for the buildings on the property, which have to be demolished should not be factored into the purchase price (if anything, the buildings are a burden on the property). A $9.6 million number from 2006-2007 is excessive in today's downward market. In fact, my own assessment was just reduced due to the depressed real estate market. If I had stayed with my 2006-2007 assessment, I'd be paying too much. Bancroft has had no incentive to reduce its assessment because Bancroft pays little or no property taxes as a nonprofit."
Joe Taxpayer November 28, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Fair answer Tori and thanks for attempting to answer. The township has an obligation to maintain accurate valuations for tax purposes. Congrats on your reduction that assigned your tax savings to the rest whose assessment was not reduced because tax revenues don't fall. Was your land assessment lowered or just the improvements or both? Land is a land locked town is not going to devalue. The basis for the price is central to the debate followed by the true net annual impact to residents after all other costs/reductions/etc are factored in. BTW just because they will demo the buildings doesn't mean the owner doesn't want to be paid for them. How many have bought old houses and bulldozed to build a new home. They paid the price for the old house too.
Tori November 28, 2012 at 02:49 PM
I don't know the answers to your question. Still paying to much.
Brian Kelly November 28, 2012 at 03:23 PM
The 30 million dollar document for a new high school isn't much of a surprise as it's been talked about as being the final piece of the campus. There was a young woman at last night's meeting who was pro referendum talking about money raised from bringing in tuition students to the new school. Steve Weinstein has always talked about Haddonfield having a start of the art campus That's always been the final vision for the Bancroft purchase. My questions to Mr. Weinstein were about Anniversary field turf, the storms and the fallen trees last month that would have destroyed it and the cost of covering the fields during uses like graduations. I was told special flooring would be purchased but the cost to the taxpayer wasn't elaborated on. I never got an answer on the Anniversary issue. Mr. Weinstein was unable to answer that question. As the commissioners told me to ask Mr. Weinstein concerning the same issue, looks like I got the runaround.
Joe Taxpayer November 28, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Brian, I will agree with you that answers shouldn't be that hard to come by. Can someone post a PDF of the 30M document?
Bill Tourtellotte November 28, 2012 at 04:01 PM
The Haddonfield Civic Association's new President, Dave Siedell, posted this on Haddonfieldtalks.com, where you can comment and discuss this as well. You can watch the entire video unedited and draw your own conclusions. Please consider joining the HCA as a contributing member as those who do make this ongoing community video service of public meetings possible: At tonight's special meeting of the BOE covered the Bancroft referendum. As it was announced tonight the amount of the bond request will be approx 12.5 million, down from the 16.8 that was tentatively discussed during the summer presentations. Major reasons for the reductions are realized grants from the county, state and local government for open space, the successful raising of citizen funds for one of the turf fields in the proposal as well as better estimates of costs from state mandated due diligence of the acquisition. The video of tonight's meeting and links to all documents discussed tonight are available on the Civic Association's website: http://haddonfieldcivic.com/hca/2012/11/27/board-of-education-special-bancroft-meeting-november-27-2012/ Please take the time to educate yourself on this issue. The bond goes for a vote in January and could have financial implications for years and affect the Borough for generations. Judge for yourself the positives and negatives. This topic will heat up as the air cools down toward winter!
Joe Taxpayer November 28, 2012 at 04:16 PM
We are trying to educate ourselves but information and answers to questions is being poorly communicated. Where are all the details?
Scott Kegler November 28, 2012 at 04:17 PM
I think this purchase is a great opportunity for the Haddonfield community. I am fully supportive.
Simone Kane November 28, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Please disregard the tile photo, this was an accident. I am asking for it to be taken down. My apologies, I was trying to get a closer look at the plans. Oops...
Joe Taxpayer November 28, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Tori I agree we pay too much but its because it goes to payroll expenses and not investments in our town. I support investing in things kids and citizens benefit from. Paying more for someone else's pension and healthcare doesn't cut it. 26% of your tax bill goes to Camden County. We pay $10M in local taxes and $16M to the county. What do we get in return?
Jeff H November 28, 2012 at 06:09 PM
I don't share the BOE President's vision. I don't have the stomach or wallet to fund anything that is STATE OF THE ART, especially when the public sector will be responsible for managing it. Look at the PUBLIC WORKS yard and their STATE OF THE ART $2 million building. It is a disgrace and is not used for it's intended purpose, to store large vehicles. Now a 100' wide POLE BARN is being built. WHEN WILL THE SPENDING STOP? MAINTAIN WHAT WE HAVE AND SAVE ME THE THIN JUSTIFICATION AND DREAMING WITH TAXPAYER MONEY!
Tori November 28, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Which title photo are you talking about???????
Tori November 28, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Sound like good reasons not to want to pay more.
Jack S November 28, 2012 at 06:45 PM
I think the picture he is referring to is the one at the top of this page with the aerial view of Bancroft. It's not the official picture put in recent months by the BoE. The BoE picture includes all the captions describing where they may put buildings, affordable housing, etc. I've seen a group of supporters of the bond circulating the other photo above on their websites. The photo above is misleading because it purports to show a quantity of green space that the BoE has in no way committed to.
Maryann Campling November 29, 2012 at 10:20 PM
OK....Jack S. Bill, Tori, Brian....somebody....some answers, please: I was only able to stay at the meeting for about an hour and when I left they were still droning on. In today's Courier Post, and article said "....the cost of the project that would turn the Bancroft property into a STADIUM COMPLEX for the district." What?!! When was this decided? And what exactly is Tori referring to about the 30 million for A/C and a drop off area at Tatem. What's down the road....another bond? I know that people with kids are all gung ho about this, but when does it end? Info, Please!
Jack S November 29, 2012 at 10:45 PM
MaryAnn, I can't speak to the "stadium complex." Clearly a substantial portion of the property will be developed at taxpayer expense in future phases for turf, school buildings, and/or other construction. Indeed, the initial $16 million in bond and grant funding is just for phase 1. As to the separate $30 million, it was included in a Board report that a local resident disclosed at the meeting which apparently details the Board's 5-year plan for capital expenditures at the existing schools. The Board in response characterized the document as a "standard" report submitted to the State yearly. I can't speak to whether the report is truly standard, but at a time when the Board is also considering a multi-million dollar non-standard expenditure (i.e., for Bancroft), what might otherwise be a "standard" report reveals a level of spending that in the aggregate is more than what many residents may want to bear in the coming years.

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