Bond Referendum Passes

Kris Schneider

After months of planning, the $18.5 million bond has passed in Caldwell and West Caldwell, in a vote of 806-497. The polls were open on Tuesday, December 9.  The bond, proposed by the Caldwell-West Caldwell Public Schools, will fund capital improvements to the school facilities.  The bond will be partially repaid by the State of New Jersey, through the Debt Service Aid program.  The state will fund about $4.8 million.

The bond will fund security and safety improvements to all of the school buildings, as well as athletic facility upgrades and repairs at James Caldwell High School.  Nearly nine hundred new interior and exterior doors will be purchased with the funds, enhancing the security of the students in the district .  This will, according to information provided by the Caldwell-West Caldwell Board of Education, accelerate the door replacement project, which otherwise would take over one hundred years at the current pace of 5-10 doors per year.  Security camera and recording equipment will be purchased for all four elementary schools and Grover Cleveland Middle School, matching the level of video security at James Caldwell High School.  Cameras will also be installed at the entrances to district-owned athletic fields, including Bonnel Field.

Since the district computer network had a severe meltdown in 2009, there have been continuous computer issues district-wide.  This is partially due to the fact that the networking facility is located in a converted janitorial closet in Grover Cleveland Middle School, which does not have proper ventilation. The bond will fund a new district technology center in the middle school, which will improve efficiency and ventilation.

The bond will also fund air quality improvements, through HVAC upgrades in all school buildings. Heating units, some over fifty years old, will be replaced. In order to replace these units, the electrical infrastructure in all schools will be upgraded. Most of the electric systems are original to the buildings, according to the Board of Education.  These electrical upgrades will also allow for the installation of air conditioning in the schools.  Aging boilers at Lincoln Elementary and Grover Cleveland Middle Schools will also be replaced to increase efficiency.

The windows at James Caldwell High School are often difficult to open and close.  This is because most are original to the school building.  The bond will fund replacement of all windows in the high school, as well as in Washington Elementary and Harrison Schools.  At the high school, the aging roof will be replaced over the maintenance shop.  Parking areas will be renovated at Jefferson and Grover Cleveland Middle Schools.

Finally, athletic fields will see significant upgrades with the bond.  Irrigation, drainage, and surfacing upgrades will be made to both the lower field and Bonnel Field.  At the same time, the track will be completely replaced, and an organic turf field will be installed as the main playing field at Bonnel. Modifications and general repairs will take place at Bonnel to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Although many voiced strong opinions for both sides, the final result was up to just about 1,300 residents of Caldwell and West Caldwell who voted on December 9.  The ayes had it, and the bond will move forward despite continued opposition, mostly on the grounds that the seemingly unnecessary artificial turf field was included in a bond referendum which also included necessary security and safety upgrades.  Proponents argued that the turf will increase play quality and usage.  The cost to taxpayers in Caldwell and West Caldwell will average about $11 per month, or $132 per year. Following the release of voting results, the Caldwell-West Caldwell School District posted on its Facebook page, ““To the families, the staff, community members and our voting-age students — thank you for supporting the school district and helping us to prepare for today and tomorrow, securing the health and safety of our children.”