March 10th, 2014
Dear Residents of Middletown,
My name is Vincent S. Brand, and I serve on the Board of Education in Middletown N.J. I have been a Board member for four years and was recently re-elected to that post in November of 2013. Tomorrow, March 11th, the Middletown BOE is holding a referendum election to decide whether or not to fund essential repairs to 15 schools and thereby fully utilize 20 ROD grants awarded to Middletown Township Public Schools by the New Jersey Department of Education. This referendum, should it pass, will help the district address some of the critical needs within our buildings, with the benefit of state assistance.
To fully evaluate whether or not to support the referendum, it is important to understand the intent of ROD grants as they relate to our facility needs. These grants are not available every year in N.J. In fact, this round of ROD grants is the first to be issued in over three years. Additionally, these grants are not issued to every district, but rather awarded based on critical need. In order to qualify, a district must apply and substantiate that their need is greater than any other district. In Middletown, we applied for 39 such grants and we were awarded every one. Twenty of these grants are included in this referendum. Essentially, Middletown argued successfully that these funds were best spent in Middletown to address urgent facility repairs. What is important to know is that these funds were generated through statewide taxes. Monies awarded to any district come in part from Middletown tax payers. Therefore, it is noteworthy that we are voting to get back some of our own hard earned money. It is also important to know that these grants do not cover the entire cost of any one repair. These funds are supplied only if the district pays for roughly 60% of each facility project. If we cannot do this, the ROD grant is simply returned to the state and awarded to another district. We lose our tax money to someone else; our loss is their gain.
As for the facility projects being planned, it is fair and accurate to point out that these repairs are needed. Good schools require heating systems that work and roofs that keep the water where it belongs. Without question these repairs are needed, or schools may need to be closed. If unaddressed, our heating systems will fail and our roofs will continue to leak. The question becomes not should we make the repairs, but when will we make them?
This makes the referendum question an easy one for me. Right now, we can make these repairs for 60% of the cost to the taxpayers of Middletown. We can do it now, in 2014, when bond interest rates are low and labor costs are more reasonable. We can make these repairs AND get some of our tax money back while doing so. We can do it before systems fail and force us to both close schools and fully fund these repairs through our own budget with no help from the state.
The other option is to push this problem down the road and pretend it doesn’t exist. We can wait for systems to fail. We can let the ROD grants go. We can let some other district, whose need is not as great as ours, get these grants, and they can benefit. Then, when our heating systems fail, we can fully fund the repair.
I vote for the former. I want to fix our problems before they force us into school closures and we pay higher repair costs. I want to let the state return to us some of our taxes, and I want Middletown, for a change, to be the beneficiary of state ROD grants.
I am asking that you support this referendum, and please urge your friends and neighbors to do the same.
Vote yes on March 11th.
Thank you for your time,
Vincent S. Brand III