The HVRSD September 27th referendum was recently covered quite thoroughly by MercerMe and further information is available at hvrsd.org.
Please rest assured that before our Board of Education approached you, our taxpayers, to request additional facilities maintenance support, we exhausted alternative means and maximized contributions from every available resource. Here are some highlights:
First and foremost, district staff make the greatest contributions to our success. Not only have they provided their dedication and time to our students, but they also make considerable financial sacrifices. Since 2010, our staff has significantly increased their health benefit contributions. Furthermore, most of our unions have current contracts that partnered with our Board of Education to negotiate sensible pay rates. Finally, our teachers, maintenance, transportation and non-represented staff have agreed to health benefit reductions that generate further district savings. At our February BOE meeting I presented details.
NON-TAXPAYER REVENUE SOURCES
Through a partnership, PSE&G donated a generator, agreed to install solar panels at no charge to HVRSD, and pay us about $50K/yr (and increases 2.5% annually) for their use of our space. (The referendum delivers new roofs that can potentially generate even more income.)
In the past several years, we have received millions in in-kind and cash donations from many non-profits including: The Rec Foundation of Hopewell Valley, Hopewell Valley Education Foundation, MTPA, Arts on The Vine, and the PTOs. We have also received significant donations from individuals.
EDUCATION, TECHNOLOGY, & FINANCIAL PLANNING
The district has researched improving services and reducing costs in areas that indicated accelerated spending.
Out of district Special Education placement tuitions are not subject to the same 2% spending limits as our in-district programs. In order to improve the service level in the least restrictive environment, we’ve developed in-district programs that better address student needs while limiting our exposure to out-of-district unregulated increases.
In addition to expected student achievement gains from our upcoming chromebook initiative, the district is saving about $250,000 by replacing expensive desktop computer labs, and thus eliminating the maintenance and support costs for an additional computing platform.
Finally, our business office does considerable financial planning to reduce expenses, such as refinancing bonds which recently saved the district $233,000. They are also responsible for obtaining cost estimates used in referendum calculations. Their conservative plans ensure costs will not exceed estimates and excess can be returned to taxpayers.
Transparency and community collaboration differentiate Hopewell Valley schools and make our district a gem. Not only have our administration and Board been keeping our district community apprised, but we have also made concerted efforts to share referendum updates with the general public by ensuring thorough information has been distributed all year In The Press and we took input from community members throughout the planning process.
Additionally, principals and supervisors showed their building needs covered by the referendum in a 10-minute video. Needs include maintenance, air quality, safety, security and accessibility.
The district has done everything they can and now need your help. For the past two years, our general budget increases were the lowest in HV history, lowest in Mercer County and among the lowest across the state. We would like to pass this bond referendum to avoid compounding general budget increases. Once our previous bond debt expires in 2021, taxpayers should receive their first tax reduction in recent memory.
I am voting YES to retain taxpayer value, improve the facilities for our staff, and most importantly provide learning environments and opportunities that are essential to prepare all students for the challenges of work, life, and citizenship in the 21st century and beyond.