Who is the Midland Park Taxpayers Alliance? (Updated)
UPDATE: NOON 12/20/12 ... Six residents launched an effective campaign to defeat the $15.3 million schools referendum. Borough Public Defender Peter Jeffer told Suburban News Corespondant Lynn Bruggemann, "a bunch of friends got together and had to do something about the cost involved in this referendum."
Jeffer, spokesman and treasurer for the Midland Park Taxpayers Alliance, said the 20-year bond would have cost him an additional $2,400 a year in taxes on the three properties he owns in the borough.
He also questioned the need for three school buildings in this "tiny town," claiming the current eighth-grade enrollment is 56.
Superintendent of Schools Maria Cirasella, Ed.D., told Midland Park Press there are currently 99 students in eighth-grade and enrollment has been fairly consistent for the past decade.
Dr. Cirasella could not immediately refute other claims of the taxpayers alliance, such as the age of boilers and windows in the district, however, she recalls that "new windows were included in the Dec. 12, 2000 referendum, which was not approved by the voters."
Previous comments from district officials put the age of the boilers at Highland School at 60 years old, not 1985 as Jeffer asserted in the Suburban News.
(Read the full story on northjersey.com)
In the weeks before the Dec. 11 failed school referendum, Midland Park residents received automated calls from a group calling itself the "Midland Park Taxpayers Alliance."
The information provided in the robo-calls about the then-upcoming referendum was described as "questionable", "untrue" and "unfairly biased" by Midland Park parents who attended referendum forums. It is also believed that the Midland Park Taxpayers Alliance helped to mobilize their voters by providing transportation to ensure the referendum would not pass.
A spokesman for the Midland Park Taxpayers Association* (see editor's note below), as quoted in the Dec. 19 edition of the VIlladom Times (page 3), said, "I hope we sent the board a message that maintenance cannot be treated as an emergency. It's not right. ... The board should plan for the work and include it in its budget."
According to Board of Education trustee Pete Triolo, "The current 2% cap in annual budget increases that is imposed by the state prevents us from addressing many facility issues in our budget. Negotiated contracts with employees, that allow us to attract and retain an effective staff of educators, take up a significant portion of this 2%. In addition, healthcare and benefit costs are rising at a much greater rate than 2%.
"We have also had to deal with a state government that has withheld aid that we were promised on a number of occasions, with no legitimate explanation," he added.
The $15.3 million referendum was broken down into two questions. Question one would allocate $12.2 million in bonds for improvements to roofs, window, boilers and HVAC at Highland, Godwin and Midland Park Junior-Senior High. The second question, which was contingent on the first question passing, was for $3.1 million to make improvements at the high school fields and auditorium.
School officials note that the boiler at Highland School is more than 60 years old and inefficient, though working. Parents have reported that climate changes between various classrooms make it difficult to determine how to dress their children each day. Some rooms are "like summer" while other rooms are cold.
"A new furnace for Highland was included in a previous referendum but with an increase in pricing for steel structures related to another part of this proposal, it was removed," Triolo explained.
Regarding renovations at the Junior-Senior High, district officials said they have reported sections of the roof with budgeted funds, but have not been able to address all of the problems in the annual budget. Parents have told Mildland Park Press that when it rains, the hallways in the high school are lined with garbage cans to catch the leaks in the roof.
As for the bleachers, while rumor has it they were "condemned," school officials not the district's insurance company determined they were a safety issue and the district had them removed to avoid a potential safety issue.
If you are member of the Midland Park Taxpayers Alliance, we would like to hear from you. Email email@example.com with your name, phone number and preferred method of communication.
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* Editor's note: It is the editorial policy of the Midland Park Press to not publish the names of residents and non-public officials without their prior consent. Our community is small, but the internet is vast and forever.