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$990K Artificial Turf Vote Nears

A vote on whether to move amount from the operating budget to the capital reserve account is scheduled for Sept. 27.

In April, voters approved having the Montville Township Board of Education spend $11.5 million on benefits for employees as part of the overall budget.

Most of that amount—$10.4 million—was for health benefits, the cost of which were jumping 28 percent from the previous year under the district's provider at the time, Horizon.

District officials were thinking, "This is going to kill us," business administrator James Tevis said of the increase.

The district had a consultant solicit proposals from other insurance providers, as the district does every year, and received a better offer from Cigna in May, Tevis said. The district made the necessary notifications and switched in July.

The level of health benefits stayed the same, but the cost increased only 8.5 percent from the previous year instead of 28 percent, representing savings for the year of $1.5 million, Tevis said.

Typically, when renewal increases are "more reasonable, we don't get a lot of competition," he said. "This year, with the 28 percent renewal (from Horizon), Cigna was able to come in and be much more competitive."

So, the district still has $11.5 million budgeted for benefits on its insurance line even though it only expects to spend about $10 million on benefits this year. Officials say the savings would best be spent on a one-time infrastructure project or on equipment because it's not recurring revenue. They also say the best project at this time is an artificial turf field at Montville Township High School, which they project could be completed for about $990,000 with some cost overruns factored in.

They say the field will need to be replaced eventually no matter what voters decide and that installing artificial turf now with available funds will be more cost effective than installing a new grass field. Installing artificial turf would allow for the field to be used far more often, without a need to rest the field or worry about rain. People in the district have talked about installing artificial turf at the high school football field for about a decade, they said. But the district can't spend money from the operating budget on a capital improvement project without first getting voter approval.

The overall budget for the district, including debt service, is about $67.7 million.

Voters will have their say on Sept. 27.

Public Question to Be Voted Upon:

The Board of Education of the Township of Montville in the County of Morris, New Jersey is authorized to transfer 2011-2012 funds in the amount of $990,000.00 from the general operating budget, insurance line, to the capital reserve account to pay for the installation of a turf field at the Montville Township High School.

  • YES
  • NO

Polling Places:

  • Districts 1, 4, 12, 16: , 5 Shawnee Trail, Montville
  • Districts 2, 5, 10, 13: , 195 Changebridge Road, Montville
  • Districts 3, 6, 8, 17: , 46 Pine Brook Road, Towaco
  • Districts 7, 9, 11, 14, 15, 18: , 90 Horseneck Road, Montville

If you don’t know your district, call the municipal clerk’s office at 973-331-3345.

Remaining District Turf Referendum Information Sessions:

Date Meeting Type Time Location Sept. 19
Regular Session Board Meeting 8 p.m. Sept. 21 Cedar Hill Home & School Meeting 9 a.m.
A Krentz September 17, 2011 at 11:11 AM
Hey Montville Residents: Vote this in. Please go walk the field and you'll see. The field is an accident waiting to happen. Your town was voted number 1 in New Jersey. Wouldn't it be nice to keep it that way.
Maxim Sapozhnikov September 17, 2011 at 11:17 AM
While the existing field is indeed a disgrace, I am still annoyed they wouldn't opt for grass. There is a reason NFL and UEFA players vehemently oppose playing on artificial turf.
Dan Grant September 17, 2011 at 08:16 PM
Yeah, They are 300 LBS and professionals who use these fields 8-9 times a year. Not high schools who tend to use their fields for one activity or another 4 times or more a week. Here is a quote from a Washington Post Article from a while back. While schools and coaches often pride themselves on meticulous care of their grass fields, more and more public schools are turning to artificial turf fields, which can be used for a variety of sports, including football, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey. Anne Arundel County has plans to install synthetic fields at all of its 12 high schools. Montgomery and Loudoun counties are studying the possibility of turfing all of their stadiums. All three Arlington County schools have artificial turf in their football stadiums and half of the District's schools either have or are in the process of getting new turf fields. In Fairfax, three of the 25 public high schools have turf and there are plans to install more of the synthetic fields. Artificial turf is on the way in Frederick County, when a new high school opens in the fall of 2008. Charles County's newest high school, North Point, also has artificial turf. "If I had the FedEx Field grounds crew, that would be my first choice," Jansen said, referring to the Redskins' home. "But I don't, and I don't have the money to take care of [fields that way]. I see turf fields as being an improvement on Mother Nature."
Maxim Sapozhnikov September 17, 2011 at 11:17 PM
Soccer players are nowhere like 300 lbs and they use the field about twice a week, not counting training. I'm also not quite convinced about the practicality of turf. While it truly can sustain more use than grass, the comparison math posted by the Board does not hold water to such a degree that it looks like an intentional deception.
Larry Feather September 18, 2011 at 03:07 AM
Turf Field is the way to go. For high use fields, it is much more efficient then grass. The amount of time that can be used on a grass field (and remain usable) can not come close to what a turf field can offer. My sons have played club soccer on turf fields their whole life and I can personally tell you that they have never sustained an injury, been rained out or lost out on a practice. Turf can be used year round by many programs, not just athletics and take the wear and tear of day-to-day use. The initial cost is high but the benefits (including cost) out way it in the long run. My vote is an absolute YES for turf.
mark September 18, 2011 at 09:14 PM
wake up Montville is anyone thinking about our children's future or just how good the field looks why ae we not discussing what we can do for their minds - if anyone gets hurt on or off the field haveing spent 1m for turf is not going to get them a job No one has still said anything about the fact only certain children will be using the field what about those that do not play sports WAKEUP MONTVILLE
Maxim Sapozhnikov September 19, 2011 at 12:57 AM
I'm usually the first to go up in flames about Board expenditures but this time, they seem to be doing the right thing. The field is in horrible condition; so horrible, in fact, that the school might be looking at a non-action liability when - note, not IF, but WHEN - someone sustains a serious injury. Moreover, the field is not there just for a couple of jocks; it is also for Ph. Ed. classes, marching band, and whatnot, including graduation ceremony. Most importantly, this money CANNOT be spent on education (such as more teachers and/or new classes) due to financial regulations that the Board did try to explain on their website. The option is either to do the turf, replace the grass, or give taxpayers a cashback. Even having very little skin in the game (two daughters, one in college and the other still in Elementary), I'd rather see it done.
mark September 19, 2011 at 11:02 PM
I guess what everybody is saying is too bad people we are going to do the turf thing regardless of what you think some great small town to live in - If you cannot spend the money on teachers then give me my money bac k
Maxim Sapozhnikov September 20, 2011 at 01:33 AM
I think that's one of the options, yes. Frankly, I'd rather spend LESS on teachers...
Ed September 20, 2011 at 02:40 PM
I am having a very hard time understanding why the money to turf the field "just appeared" from a saving in the staff health coverage contract. It appears the budget money for the health coverage was not looked at in detail prior to it being presented to the voters. Did voters approve a school budget that was incorrect to start with?
Maxim Sapozhnikov September 20, 2011 at 02:45 PM
That's because Christie slapped the teachers' unions with the new law, forcing them to contribute to their health care expenses. As a result, the group health insurance policy had to be renegotiated to a cheaper version. Next year, the school budget's baseline will get a $1.5M decrease, but this year the budget was already voted for and could not change, thus making this a one-time lump sum. Hope I did explain it. :)
Disgusted Parent September 20, 2011 at 03:17 PM
Mark, Whether you child plays a sport or not is irrelevant to the turf argument. Every child in the High School will use that field for physical education which last time I checked was a mandatory part of the curriculm. It is the short sightedness of people or the us against them mentality that will prevent this from passing. Last time I checked we were all one town and our high school schould be a show place. The facilities are in desperate need of repair and not only will the athletes benefit but every child will use that field along with many other non athletic groups. If the heat was broken would you insist they fix it? This is not a luxury it is a necessity and one that has been talked about for far too long. The time is right the taxpayers will not be hit it's a no brainer!
Dan Grant September 20, 2011 at 05:18 PM
Ann, Good Post. As I understand it, the savings on healthcare came about from the Board of Ed shopping the cost of health insurance and finding a cheaper company. That makes it a one shot deal. That also has nothing to do with Christie. We are and should be a community. Not every person uses everything that property taxes pay for. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't have the things that make us a first class community. Not everyone uses the schools, the library, the recreation facilities ect., but if we are to think of ourselves as a community then all of these things are important. Somewhere along the line the politics of the Township took a wrong turn and did begin to pit one group against another. It also ought to be remembered that one of the key factors in the value of a home in any town are the schools and facilities that the town offers it's residents.
Steven L. September 20, 2011 at 11:02 PM
This is wrong. Does anyone think the health care costs aren't going to go up next year, and all the years after that? This money should be used to pay increased costs next year and when they arise, so the Board of Education doesn't come to us for more money again.
Steven L. September 20, 2011 at 11:19 PM
It is time to stop funding athletics, band, and other non-classroom activities. I know they are valuable, but when my taxes are over $10,000 per year I cannot afford to pay for them. Let the parents of the kids who want to participate pay for the extra-curriculars and make athletics part of the township recreation department.
Maxim Sapozhnikov September 20, 2011 at 11:20 PM
The money MUST be spent in this year; that's the financial reality we live in. As for the healthcare costs, they always rise. Private sector deals with it by cutting benefits and/or firing people, but unions are such a powerhouse contributor to the Donks that they are subject to neither. So come next year, either we break the 2% budget growth constraint, or butcher the curriculum; heaven forbid any of the union dinosaurs won't get their yearly raises.
Steven L. September 20, 2011 at 11:23 PM
Use the money to pay teachers to extend the school day, to pay for next years increased healthy care costs, or to put air-conditioning in the schools and extend the school year.
Disgusted Parent September 21, 2011 at 02:31 PM
Steve, Just to clarify the parents of athletes, band members etc do pay for their children to play. It is $150 per athlete, band member and $35 for clubs with a family cap at $500.00. In addition the teams fundraise to supply new uniforms, equipment etc. The athletic budget has seen cuts of over $100,000 in the last two years and the high school is seeing the largest 2 classes ever to come through their doors. You statment that you cannnot afford to pay for them is ludicrous. If you read the literature or listen to the presentations the money was already approved. There is no tax increase associated with this. You are being asked to approve moving funds from the operating side of the budget to the capital improvements side of the budget. If the athletics were part of the recreation dept do you think the field would not have to be addressed? Of course it would and then your taxes would most certainly go up! This is a one time option with no tax increase.
Maxim Sapozhnikov September 21, 2011 at 02:40 PM
While I believe the turfing would be beneficial to the town, the statement "There is no tax increase associated with this" is a LIE. If turfing isn't done, there will be a one-time tax REBATE equal to the cost.
Steven L. September 21, 2011 at 03:18 PM
Athletics shouldn't be part of the Board of Education. They should stick with classroom instruction and leave everything else for the parents who want their kids to participate to pay for. Recreation can pay $50,000 a year for sod, and put it in the fees they charge. If there's a $1 million + surplus, return it to the taxpayers. It belongs to us.
Carmela Novi September 21, 2011 at 05:35 PM
The reality is that athletics is part of the high school curriculum, and are not simply as an "extra" curricular. Moreover, our hs marching band is a competitive group to be proud of, and who could argue that what those children learn is not educational? Or that the values one learns on the athletic field is not educational? I am not a senior citizen but don't believe we should do away with the Senior House. Because a well-rounded community provides for all of its citizenzs. Moreover, the Town owns three turf fields (one at Camp Dawson, two at the community park) and several sod fields, one of which is completely at rest each year in order to preserve its condition. The Board of Ed does not have that luxury. I believe your analysis ignores the fact that we have an athletic field that is in deplorable condition and has been for many years. The repairs are needed, whether we turf or sod and the long term cost analysis shows its cheaper over ten years to turf, even factoring in replacement of the turf at the end of its useful life (10 years). Please also note that tax payer relief was earmarked by the Board of Ed in the current school budget, even though we also instroduced new technology, new instructional initiatives, continue to assess the educational needs of the students and must work under a 2% cap even while health insurance premiums rise at a much more rapid pace. See www.montville.net for info.
Carmela Novi September 21, 2011 at 05:42 PM
Hi, Mark. I am a Board of Ed member, although on this forum I only speak for myself. I also sit on the Board's Curriculum, Instruction and Technology committee. I can assure you that analysis on the educational needs of our children is ongoing and continous. For the 2011-2012, new math and writing programs instructional programs have been added; new technology; a revamped world language program at the middle school which will increase instructional time those students receive; and a freshman studies program, to name a few. This is not, by the way, about how the field "looks". It looks terrible because its drainage and infrastructure is ineffective and compromised and must be repaired. Those costs are substantial, and will occur whether the field is then covered with a sod or turf carpet, and turf, over a 10 year period, its a cheaper alternative. Moreover, all high school students will have gym class (a curriculum requirement) on the field; and it is used by the marching band and other community groups. Please see the FAQ sheet at www.montville.net for more info. Thank you for your consideration. Please vote on September 27, 2011.
Steven L. September 21, 2011 at 10:22 PM
Ms. Novi, The Senior House doesn't consume over 70% of our property tax dollars. That is a ridiculous comparison. I don't think that any of us wants to see a decline in classroom educational opportunities, but the longstanding "anything for the kids" attitude is killing taxpayers in this community. Change the curriculum if you must. Athletics have a value, sure. But the Board of Education shouldn't be in the athletics business and needs to stop asking taxpayers to fund it. Put our money into the classroom - have a longer school day, go into the summer, do what you have to do so that kids are prepared for the academic challenges they'll face in college and the work place. But leave athletics and band and the rest to the parents to pay for if they want their kids to have it. And return that $million + to the taxpayers.
Dan Grant September 21, 2011 at 11:06 PM
Steven, I don't think that was her point about the Senior House. The point is that there are many facilities in the Township that are funded by all the Taxpayers and never used by many. It isn't an "all for the kids" attitude that is fueling this need. Athletics and extra curricular activities are a part of the developement of a lot of students and are a consideration on competative college applications and for scholarships. What ought to be understood is that while $990,000.00 is a lot of money, the Township as a whole collects $93 million per year in property taxes for all purposes. Over the life of this field over half a Billion dollars will be collected for all education in the Township. This expense represents a needed repair of a part of our facilities. I sat through two budget defeats and I can tell you that the first things to get reduced are capital improvements in an effort to reduce budgets and avoid cuts to programs. This one needs to get done.
Carmela Novi September 22, 2011 at 01:06 PM
Steven L. Thank you for your comment. This is not about "all for the kids". From my perspective, a thorough and efficient public school education is a state constitutional guarantee that I expect to be provided for our children in exchange for my tax payer dollars. The h.s. field repairs are needed maintenance and repair project and it is being funded by a savings in health insurance premiums in a budget that was approved by the voters in April. As I have stated elsewhere on this forum, tax relief has been provided for in the 2011-2012 budget, so the various interests of parents and non-parent tax payers was taken into consideration as part of the budget process. The 2011-2012 budget represented a 1.5% increase from last year (below the 2% cap mandated by state law), even though some hard costs increased at a rate that was far above 1.5%. Gym and athletics is part of the academic curriculum, as is art, music, math, science and literature. I don't want a longer school day or year, and frankly, it would cost us much more than $990K to do that. I do expect, however, in exchange for my tax dollars, that the Bd of Ed will provide a thorough education with safe, clean facilities staffed by educators who are well trained. That's what this repair project is about. Thank you for your consideration. Sincerely, Carmela Novi
Carmela Novi September 22, 2011 at 01:23 PM
Steven L. As to your point about the school budget being 70% of your total tax bill, I see your point. Perhaps part of the issue with how high our tax bills are is in part one that needs to be attacked on a different level, i.e., how NJ funds its schools. I do believe that the use of $990K of the $1.5M in savings from the health insurance premiums is a responsible way to fund the repairs of an existing facility, which, if left alone, will only grow worse with time. Please keep in mind that out of this school budget we educate approximately 4300 students and must support, in salaries and benefits, and instructional staff that numbers about 450, to say nothing of meeting unfunded legal mandates imposed by lawmakers. The average cost per student in Montville is comparable to other districts county wide.Having a good educational system supports all of our property values, and that includes properly maintained facilities. I understand your concerns and ask that you review the information on the turf referendum at www.montville.net. I would also like to see you at a Board meeting, so we can discuss all the ways in which the Board of Ed and new school administration has focused on being fiscally responsible, while managing the district in a way that meets the needs of the schoolchildren. Thank you for being part of the dialogue.
mark September 26, 2011 at 01:47 AM
Once again this was suppose to be privately funded so what happened to all those people who said that they would support the turf the valley when push comes to shove they say I am not going to pay let the taxpayers do it It would be nice if we spent the same amount of time about a field on getting jobs for people The BOE liek everyother committee in this town just wants to push things through that will benefit them not the town Again this was a private funding project I want my money back VOTE NO VOTE NO VOTE NO VOTE NO VOTE NO
Josephine T. September 26, 2011 at 09:59 PM
Vote NO. Be cautious when a frivolous project of this type is rushed with carefully edited information presented on websites, meetings, school computers and slick printed literature. Special interest groups and BOE have family on football and band, overlooking obligations for the best interests of the entire school district. This surplus needs to be allocated to the entire school system so that all students may benefit with adequate educational facilities. Parents recently attended back to school nights and witnessed the poor conditions within the schools. Damaged floors, tiles, plumbing, poor ventilation and no air conditioning in high volume areas, old computers, curriculum programs, poor lighting, damaged sidewalks, curbs, black top and ball fields. PTA presidents can expand the listing with many more crucial items and a football field won’t make it as a priority. Astroturf is a nice luxury, but not at the expense of the future of the education for the majority of our children. A NO vote will allow adequate time to evaluate the proper disbursement of this surplus. Don’t let special interest groups ruin the future of our schools with selfishness. As you receive another superintendent’s message on the over used Emergency alert system tonight. Please remember... *Contact your friends and neighbors to vote NO *PTA’s please contact school parents to vote NO *Support All of Montville’s Education – Vote NO the valley
Diane September 27, 2011 at 12:40 AM
VOTE YES. I am an elementary parent and I support the installation of a turf field. I walk on the track around the existing field regularly, so I am familiar with the field's condition year round. The existing facility was never built properly, has been substandard for years, and is at the point where it is hazardous to the children, including all gym classes (1200 students) and special ed students. That field is supposed to be for everyone's use, not just athletes and band, but in its current condition, doesn't meet anyone's needs. It is a source of embarrassment to the entire community . If we put it off any longer, it will become an emergency situation that will cripple future capital projects. Let's just get it done, and move on. VOTE YES.

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