School Bond Rate Lower Than Expected, Budget Increase Trimmed


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BOE-Spardel2The Verona Board of Education put the bonds needed to finance the March 11 referendum out to auction and the winning bid was much lower than expected.

BOE Business Administrator Cheryl Nardino said at last night’s BOE meeting that the lowest of the seven bidders was 3.0359%, which was well below the 3.65% rate that the BOE’s advisors had estimated the bond would fetch. That drops the annual cost of the debt service by about $10 per household. Verona’s public schools have a AA- bond rating, which is considered high grade.

The BOE said last night that French & Parrello, the firm hired to reshape the upper and lower fields at Verona High School as part of the referendum, had begun to do its surveys of the area. Superintendent Steve Forte said he did not know yet when the firm would submit its designs to the Board. The BOE postponed three resolutions that would have awarded contracts for other referendum work to the Mylan Architectural Group to clarify how subcontractors should be identified in those contracts.

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In other action, the BOE approved a budget for the 2014-2015 school year that is a 2.5% increase over the current budget, down from 2.78% when the tentative budget was approved in March, in part because teachers are paying more of their healthcare costs. In the 2011-2012 budget teachers were switched out of a high-cost insurance plan and required to pay 1.5% of their salaries toward their benefits. Now teachers pay a percentage of the premium according to their salary: A single teacher earning $40,000 to $45,000 now pays 6% of the premium; with higher salaries, the payment could be up to 35% of premium. As a result, some teachers have opted out of the schools’ insurance plan, cutting its cost to taxpayers. BOE President John Quattrocchi noted that the Board is talking to teachers about other changes that could further blunt healthcare cost increases.

Last night’s meeting lasted until almost 11 p.m., largely because of a lengthy public comments session spurred by opponents to the field renovation. The “Be A Good Neighbor” group once again mis-characterized several aspects of the project and launched a personal assault on BOE member Steve Spardel for what it asserted was a conflict of interest. Spardel and fellow members Jim Day, Joe Bellino and John Quattrocchi repeatedly refuted erroneous information and statements. You can watch the meeting in full below.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]


  1. It is offensive (not to mention ludicrous) to suggest that a comment made Elie Wiesel in reference to bystanders during the Holocaust has any relevance to the discussion by the “Be a Good Neighbor” group. Aside from the fact we are talking about lighting on a field, we are talking about a community with an elected group of board members, discussing in open forum, a referendum that was voted on by town members and won by a landslide.

  2. Virginia,

    I always thought that this web site was a recap of news from around Verona. From your comments above I realized that you are not Independant and fair reporter. Why?

  3. Dan,

    Thank you for your comments. I have listened, intently, to the remarks that have been made by Be A Good Neighbor representatives at every Board of Education and Town Council meeting since the March 11 referendum was overwhelmingly passed by Verona voters. I listen and try to parse out the facts. Finding none, I move on to reporting stories about people who are trying to build the community of Verona.

    The attempt, at the last BOE meeting, by Be A Good Neighbor’s Barbara Bochese to compare the distress that might be felt by residents near the field to the suffering of millions during the Holocaust was deeply offensive. If my comment to that effect seems unfair to you, so be it.

    Readers who wish to form their own opinion can watch the video, The remarks begin at the 2:46:43 mark.


  4. I totally get that everyone us entitled to their opinion. Can you please identify or clarify what was mis characterized by the BAGN group.

    Also you are putting works in my mouth about the Holocost. I never said anything about it.

    Facts are facts. I guarantee you would not like this in your backyard.

    In my opinion this was rushed through and packaged with the field renovation for special interest groups.

    Again in my opinion a person, Mr. Spardel (Board of Education member), who sits on the board of a soccer team and is involved with a senior baseball league, both of which utilize the Highschool fields for their home games, can not be fair and impartial on anything involving renovation/lighting that would benefit his own soccer and baseball leagues. Spardel has been quite vocal that he wants lights for night baseball that can be seen from the “voyager spacecraft” (his words) and will push for night baseball.

    Lastly I do not know if you have read the alternate engineers report (Mr. Frizzi). He claims that the plan is not cost effective. He has an alternate way to accomplish the BOE goals with a total savings to the Verona Tax payers of $1,200,000.00.

    I do believe the savings alone could, as you say, help build the communityt of Verona….no?

  5. Thanks Dan for making a comment that is a perfect illustration about the point I made earlier, about the absence of facts.

    There is no “alternate engineer’s report”.

    Rudy Frizzi, who many people in Verona know well from his dedicated volunteering in youth sports and other activities, is an engineer by profession. When Steve Forte called for volunteers with expertise to serve on a referendum committee about the fields, Rudy volunteered.

    But his efforts to educate the committee about certain aspects of engineering were taken out of the confines of a private committee discussion–and out of context–and presented, to the public at a Board of Education meeting, as a “plan”.

    The plan for the field work at Verona High School will come from the engineering firm hired by the Board of Education, French & Parrello, which designed both the baseball and football fields at Rutgers University, among many other projects. When that plan is ready to be presented to Verona, will report on it.


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