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Superintendent’s Corner: Building A Better Verona

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 “If people don’t vote, everything stays the same.
You can protest until the sky turns yellow or the moon turns blue,
and it’s not going to change anything if you don’t vote.” –Dolores Huerta

We will get the Verona we vote for. 21 days until Election Day. November 5th is right around the corner and what I know for sure is that every vote matters.

In our nation’s history, Election Day was established in November during a time when we had a major agrarian economy. The eleventh month of the year allowed farmers, who made up over 70 percent of workers, to tend to their harvest with ample time to travel to vote before the harsh winters set in. Getting to the polls is definitely much simpler today. But that’s not to say that juggling our kid’s schedules, getting dinner and baths ready, and going out to cast your vote is easy for adults managing families, work, and daily responsibilities.

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BUT EVERY SINGLE VOTE MATTERS. Don’t believe me? The 2005 referendum passed by only 10 votes. In Verona’s history, there have been a long line of referenda that have been put up to the taxpayer that were narrowly defeated.

Our facility needs are great. There is no doubting that fact. Prior to the early 2000’s, the Verona community rarely passed capital improvement referenda to care for our buildings. In 2005, the Board of Education established a goal to set a responsible course of action to improve our schools. At that time, the school district conducted a facility needs assessment with our architect estimating $67 million in necessary capital improvement projects. Recognizing such a large number was too much for the Verona taxpayer to bear in one referendum, the Board of Education wisely decided to focus on the highest priorities planning three smaller, more manageable referendum votes. We were successful in passing the first two votes in 2005 and 2014. Since 2005, construction costs have continued to climb and additional facility needs have been identified due to our aging schools. The last part of our plan to responsibly accomplish our goal is up to you and up for vote this November. If we successfully pass this referendum then we do not anticipate needing another referendum approval until 2031 when current debt service drops off our books. At that time, we intend to finance capital projects without any new tax impact to the taxpayer exclusive of any building additions to accommodate increased student enrollment.

Laning Avenue School turned 100 years old last year and all of our other schools are not far behind. We live in one of the oldest parts of our country and, as facilities age, our schools require replacement and renovation just like our homes. Our plan is part of the natural evolution to responsibly sustain and create safer spaces which are used from dawn to dusk by our students, by our teachers, and by our community.

This project is made up of two questions and will cost the taxpayer $18 per month, or $217 per year, on the average assessed home. It is also important to note that we will be able to take advantage of some of the lowest market interest rates in history. We will also qualify for state debt service aid percentage that will equal 40% of the annual debt service due with respect to the final eligible costs of the projects if this referendum is approved. The opportunity to take advantage of 40% funding is too good to resist.

We have had numerous public forum presentations and stakeholder committee meetings to provide an overview on the necessity of this capital improvement project. The websites below provide a wealth of information on this referendum including public video presentations outlining the scope of work. If you have not already done so, I encourage you to review these materials so you may become an informed voter on November 5th. You may access this information by visiting the following websites: www.veronaschools.org or https://tinyurl.com/BuildingABetterVerona. In addition, please consider joining Verona Public Schools on Facebook.

On November 5th, you will have an opportunity to exercise your right to vote. Make sure you do just that. Vote Building A Better Verona.

All my best,

Dr. Rui Dionisio
Superintendent of Schools

Dr. Rui Dionisio is the Verona Superintendent of Schools. Dr. Dionisio may be contacted with questions at [email protected] or by phone at 973-571-2029 ext. 7012.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

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