Statement on Bancroft Purchase from the Haddonfield BOE

The board met for a reorganization meeting Thursday.

A statement on the Bancroft public purchase from the Haddonfield Board of Education:

To the voters in the Haddonfield School District:

For too many years now, the future of the Bancroft School site, immediately adjacent to the Haddonfield High School, has hung in the balance as one proposal after another has been cast aside by community opinion, zoning regulations or redevelopment policies.

The Board of Education proposes 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 for our children.

Now is the time to act, when the Board of Education’s proposal is before the redevelopment agency, when it has been endorsed by the borough council, when open space funds and county grants may be available to reduce cost, and while financing rates are at historic lows to reduce borrowing cost.

The school district and our community are at a crossroads. Now is the time to decide before this opportunity is lost, before a “higher-density” proposal is submitted by the Bancroft School.

The Board of Education has completed due diligence on the site, negotiated a beneficial agreement of sale, sought out grants, drawn conceptual plans for initial phases of site improvements, and generally encouraged public discourse.

The purpose of a referendum is to allow the voters to make the final decision. On Jan. 22, 2013, the decision will rest in your hands. The BOE will not pursue a second referendum. We will have heard you one way or another. Your immediate responsibility is too become fully informed on this proposal and we hope this Q&A document will support that learning process. This is an unprecedented opportunity, and we ask for your attentive consideration of our proposal.

Jack S January 03, 2013 at 10:31 PM
The statement smacks of electioneering. Before a "high-density proposal" is received by Bancroft? What the BoE fails to mention is that our zoning board is under no obligation to grant a use variance for a "high-density proposal." And why does the board state that it will not pursue a "second referendum." Does it mean just the board stepping down tonight or all future boards? If Bancroft drops the price of the property 50% to its real value, and the board/borough make an earnest attempt to secure all or even most available grants (and not just the $3.5 million they have in hand today), then that may be an offer too good for residents to pass up. Again, much of the above sounds like electioneering. The BoE should stick to providing factual information and not politicking in this manner.
Dawn January 03, 2013 at 11:00 PM
Why does the BOE not tell us that purchasing this property is only the tip of the iceburge of spending for Haddonfield residents. The future cost is never mentioned. We still have to pay more to remove crentbuildings and build, plant, develope what their currents plans are. In addition to those future costs they are also not telling us about the interest rates on the borrowing of funds. These are on a vairiable rate and will definately increase over the years. The BOE needs to be more honest and less politiking.
John Moscatelli January 03, 2013 at 11:11 PM
So true Jack S. Smoke and mirrors, lies and misdirection are all were getting from the BoE on this one. We're landlocked!! Well, so is the entire Borough. The high school has worked well for generations, there is no pressing need to turn it into a campus. Might be nice, but not $12.5million nice. Enrollment is increasing! Only in their made up projections, nationally birth rates are the lowest since the Great Depression. There is no real data indicating increasing enrollment, or they would have presented it. Turf Fields at Bancroft! The BoE can turf any existing field they want (they already did 2, with some help from the Commissioners), they don't need the Bancroft property to install a third turf field. It would be a lot cheaper to turf one we already own. Bancroft will run amok! Bancroft is constrained by the same ordinances and regulations they have always been. Once in a lifetime! If the referendum fails, see if Bancroft drops their price to the $6million the BoE own appraisal said the property is worth for residential development (what it is zoned for.) If they don't, then let them improve their property and stay. This whole project is a huge windfall for Bancroft, who does not deserve an unearned extra $6million in taxpayer money for their property. Does make you wonder how all that money will get spread around and who's in line for a taste if the referendum is approved.
Brian Kelly January 04, 2013 at 02:49 AM
I also find the once in a lifetime statement a joke. Toni Pergolin, the CEO of Bancroft has stated how much they will spend on a new facility if "forced" to stay. If Bancroft has that much money at their disposal they can drop 6 million off the asking price and pay fair market price...for starters. OneHaddonfield is a Bancroft funded PAC and for them to try and represent themselves as a grass roots organization dedicated to the environment is false. Bancroft is calling the shots at the expense to the taxpayers. It's bad enough the future costs are never mentioned. The $189 listed as cost that each household will pay for the bond doesn't stop there. The 2 turf fields, their installation and ensuing costs will also be added to your bill, just not through the bond.
Scott January 04, 2013 at 02:54 PM
Thank you BOE for keeping us informed. This is a great opportunity for our students and community!
Jeremiah Wright January 04, 2013 at 03:18 PM
"to allow for possible future school expansion and development of a high school campus" /// You see, this thing is snowballing already. So apparently now we will not only have the purchase of this overpriced white elephant to finance, but some other wholly unnecessary buildings ("campus") to be constructed at a later date to finance as well. What exactly is wrong with the bldgs we have? Are we not churning out well educated kids from our schools? Let us please live within our means. Sorry people - taxpayers in this town are absolutely tapped out. Vote this boondoogle down on the 22nd.
Sue Russoniello January 04, 2013 at 03:46 PM
These grounds are the last of their size left in our town. They are conveniently located right next to the high school, which creates possibilities for future expansion of our school and borough facilities as our population ebbs and flows, educational needs change, Borough and BOE buildings age. It could also provide additional recreational space for the entire town -- both our children and adult citizens -- including playing fields and courts, bike paths, walkways, designated dog park, etc. This is also a very busy gateway to the town. If the BOE and Borough don't purchase these lands, think who might? I think it's prudent that the purchase go through for these reasons. Detailed plans for their usage can be decided on at a future date. I also suggest we keep an open, positive mind on this, and have reasonable, respectful, factual discussions going forward. Please remember our BOE representatives and Borough Commissioners are our neighbors. THEY are US. These civic volunteers are not compensated for the many, many hours they donate to making Haddonfield a better place to live. I'd love to see this discussion go forward with thoughtful input and assistance from all of us who live in and enjoy this wonderful town.
John Moscatelli January 04, 2013 at 05:17 PM
Sue, some good points, but let me say a few things about them. If the point was to provide recreational space, why are we not applying all the monies we've paid into the County open space tax. We should be able to get about $4million more from the County than we've tried for. Sure, we'll set aside the 3.68acres that are purchased with the $3.5million in grant money they applied for, but this really only covers the slopes and wetlands that couldn't be developed by anyone. The BoE is planning development on this site, plain and simple. And that means a lot more in bonds and taxes not to far down the road. If we don't buy Bancroft, they have said they will stay. Even if they try to sell, the land is zoned residential, so we would get housing. If another business interest tried to purchase the property they would have to deal with the same ordinances and regulations that bind, and will continue to bind, Bancroft. This boogeyman of 'what could happen' is being stoked to help sell this plan, and is not true. Further, the appraisal paid for by the BoE states the land value for residential development is about $6.5million, far below the $12.2million sale price already agreed to. Bancroft stands to make a small fortune from this. Perhaps is this referendum fails Bancroft will be willing to reconsider it's price. To say that anyone that dissents from the BoE's position is being negative, lying, disrespectful and unreasonable, is really beyond the pale.
Brian Kelly January 04, 2013 at 05:41 PM
Bancroft has stated numerous times they intend to develop the land. When I go on their website and see they treat the neurological disabilities our soldiers have sustained in both wars, along with children of autism and people from all walks of life suffering neurological disabilities, I can't help help but think that's a better use of the land than a sports campus. To both sides of Mountwell Woods, to the small tributary of the Copper river behind the municipal works that eventually flows out past the little league fields and finally opens up and meets with Pennypacker Park, there are acres and acres of untouched open spaces that could be used for parks and walkways. Next time you're in the vicinity of the Methodist Cemetery, walk to the back and look out at an amazing view. That's what that the stream that runs through Crows Woods turns into. It's why there used to be boat houses in that area. Lots of Haddonfield history back there. I agree all our BOE representitives and Borough Commissioners are our neighbors, but so is every resident of Haddonfield. The concerns of citizens all through our town are equally important. I feel the residents who love this town and wish to stay but will be affected by a bond that offers many more increases, not only now but in the future are more important than the vision of a Haddonfield Campus,
Joe Taxpayer January 04, 2013 at 07:46 PM
Brian, if Bancroft wants to develop the land, why are they selling it and moving? If what you say is true, they should cancel the sale and immediately submit for a full site plan to the planning board. I'm sure no one would object to their expansion plans if they do. When will we be seeing the school and town budgets so we can work together to cut taxes by eliminating pensions and healthcare costs so living here can be more affordable for all of us? I hope I can count on you for this.
Jeff H January 04, 2013 at 11:01 PM
JTP: WRONG AGAIN! READ UP ON YOUR HISTORY. We just went through an entire rezoning exercise that was intended to control the use of this land, and land in the entire borough for that matter (PATCO development). Bancroft can't, legally, develop the land as they are 'threatening' to do (at least without a very long legal process). Remember the mayor's 'NO DEBT' proclamation? The idea was to lock down the zoning so they had to play ball with us. It's now turned into a $6 million overpayment for land restricted to only residential use. LET IT PLAY OUT, WE DON'T NEED TO OVERPAY AS FOLKS WOULD HAVE YOU BELIEVE!
Maryann Campling January 05, 2013 at 02:13 PM
I had the good fortune to be raised by brilliant parents; no they weren't graduates of the Wharton School, Daddy drove a truck, Mother worked on a production line. I had a great life, private school, dance/piano lessons, clothes from shops on Chestnut Street. Most importantly, they instilled in me a strong sense of financial responsibility; for example...there's a difference between what you want and what you need, don't mortgage your future for today's dreams, if you can't pay cash, you can't afford it and don't get into debt to impress others. I know that in today's buy now/pay later, "I want what I want when I want it". dollar down, dollar a week world these tenets seem archaic, but in my analysis of the current proposed Bancroft purchase, my parent's common-sense, logic still rings true.
Maryann Campling January 05, 2013 at 02:19 PM
We currently carry over 40 M in debt between the Boro/BOE, the 12+ inflated purchase price is the tip of the iceberg, there is a 28M wish list pending for development of the property. The vagueness of the BOE's development plans are disturbing and should concern everyone...buy it now and worry about those details later? Come on folks, we're smarter than that. If you really love this town and are truly concerned about ALL of our residents, don't buy into the propaganda....learn the facts and vote on January 22.
Jeremiah Wright January 05, 2013 at 07:09 PM
Tell you what - let's make a deal. If the lavishly renumerated teachers - (sorry - "educators") - and bloated administrative staffs, together with their gold plated bennies, multi-decade retirement packages, $2 co-pays, off-every-other-week for holidays/breaks/conferences, give back money to the taxpayers equivalent to the money necessary to finance this white elephant, then yes - go for it. This of course will never happen. So, no - forget this whole deal. Vote it down people. Vote. It. Down.
Joe Taxpayer January 05, 2013 at 07:44 PM
@Jeff H wrong for supporting what Brian wrote "Bancroft has stated numerous times they intend to develop the land. When I go on their website and see they treat the neurological disabilities our soldiers have sustained in both wars, along with children of autism and people from all walks of life suffering neurological disabilities, I can't help help but think that's a better use of the land than a sports campus. " I would agree it is a better use. Are you against that too????????? I keep saying - Fine don't pay more. Will you stand with me to not raise taxes to increase pensions and healthcare expenses too in a few months??? I am voting YES to capital improvements and NO to payroll increases!! Let me too when you want to take on Camden county and the 26% in taxes we pay them. I am all IN with you and the other anti tax folks for this since its all payroll related too!
Maryann Campling January 06, 2013 at 08:36 PM
I understand that the BOE sent a flyer home with every school child this week, promoting the benefits of the purchase of Bancroft. They must have the legal right to do so, as the Boro/BOE/Bancroft are lousy with lawyers, but is this type of electioneering ethical, or moral?....two traits that seem to get overlooked when a particular agenda is being pushed. And do I understand correctly that Bancroft helped fund their efforts...again, is this legal?
angela melzi January 07, 2013 at 01:42 AM
$28mil+ capital improvement proposal was presented to the BOE by Garrison Architechts, architechts for the Bancroft property, on June 6, 2012. This proposal is for improvements, repair, rennovation and structural necessities for the 5 existing school buildings. This $28mil+ has nothing to do with the Bancroft $12mil+ bond referendum vote which is scheduled for this Jan. 22. This $28mil+ is additional money that the hired BOE architect states is needed for repairs, structural necessities, etc now and within the next few years. In this $28mil+ proposal the architecht suggested the BOE apply for State money and present a bond referendubm for voter approval. This proposal has not been made public by the BOE. I obtained a bound copy and I have presented it twice at BOE mtgs, 12/13/12 and 11/27/12. Question: where is this money going to come from - taxpayer paid school budgets or another bond. Before we, as taxpayers, vote on this Jan. 22 bond, we should perhaps consider the building necessities listed in this June 6 proposal and ask if there is anything else we should know. Let us remember that from 1988 -2004, the voters of Haddonfiled provided the BOE with $44mil+ in bond money for additions, improvements, repairs, etc., in reply to BOE futuristic visionary requests ($18mil+, '99, $14mil+ '04).


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