“It might have to go out there on a November ballot. Maybe not this November, maybe this November on [whether] to raise the taxes to pay for the poles.”
That was the statement from Board Of Education (BOE) member Loren Harms at the May 10th BOE meeting. He was referring to the findings of a report by French & Parrello Associates on the light poles at the Roselle Park High School (RPHS) athletic field complex. The report itself was a result of a light pole that fell in early April during a storm. The fields were closed while the structural survey and inspection of all the 24 light poles in and around the high school area was being conducted. The report recommended that three (3) light poles needed immediate attention and provided details on how to address the remaining 21 poles.
“Some might go out and run to their neighbors and call me all kinds of names and everything else but I’m just giving you reality,” said Mr. Harms, adding, “I’m not giving you any threats or any ultimatums.”
Mr. Harms went on to talk about getting an estimate to place the poles and determining how many would need to get replaced as well as having it done in phases over time. He further explained, “The other thing I also mentioned to the committee is that if this might have to, okay, depending on the cost, this might have to , I’m just putting it out there . . . it might have to go out there on a November ballot. Maybe not this November, maybe this November on [whether] to raise the taxes to pay for the poles.
The November ballot that Mr. Harms was speaking about is the current manner in which school district budgets are not voted on by the public unless the tax levy increase is over 2% – and even then only the amount over the cap (2%) can be voted on in a November ballot, not the entire budget.
“If it doesn’t pass, we can’t do it. We can put it on the ballot the following year but we can’t do it once it’s vote down,” remarked Mr. Harms, “Right now I don’t have any problem with the poles the way they are right now but I’m not going to sit here and say that next year or the year after, it might not be as good as it is today. With that said, we might have to take every one of the lights down for safety and then have to work it from there on how we do night games. I’m hoping people hear what I’m saying . . I’m not saying we’re doing it, I’m just putting it out there.”
The reason for the discussion about the possibility of having costs associated with repairing/replacing the light poles put up for a vote in November is due to the fact that the 2016-17 school budget was voted on and approved before the findings of the report were available to include them as part of the budget. Since between now and the next budget there will be night games – mostly football – Mr. Harms and the Board want to prepare residents for the possibility that those games might be moved to the day or somehow lit with temporary lighting that could be rented.
Mr. Harms concluded his statement with, “You asked this board to be up front and tell you, well I’m being up front and telling you. It’s a simple as that. It can’t be any plainer than what I’m saying. It’s not a threat. I’m just talking reality. We just don’t here, on the Board, have this X amount of dollars just sitting in this little coffer someplace that we can go and spend it on the lights. We have to educate our children.”
The lighting report lists ten (10) of the 24 light poles with moderate cracks or abrasion only one of the pole base elevation or grading within acceptable limits.
A copy of the report is available below for review and/or download: