Politics is local and we can have the most impact on our school boards

Your superintendent is the highest paid, most powerful public official in the municipality. Do you know his name?

Elected board members, although well intentioned are easily led by their paid employees; teachers & administrators.

Do you know what they're all doing? Well here in New Jersey they represent at least 60% of your property tax bill and budgets grow at an astounding compound rate each year.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The December 8 Meeting with voice links

At the December 8 RTBOE meeting, Rockaway Township Advocate, Tucker Kelly rose to ask about submitted bids for the planned solar project. Basically he asked if the bids included all costs such as the $60,000 roof preparation. Well I only worked in construction management for a year or so but I do know each trade (Electrical, Roofing, etc.) submits their own bid. The Prime Contractor compiles total cost adding his/her own fee. It appears in this case, ARMM Associates is the prime contractor. So the correct answer would have been “no Mr. Kelly, everything is not included.”

Actual response was delayed until later in the meeting when Business Administrator, James Verbist sidestepped Kelly’s question about roof prep (and Armm Associates fee) saying “to the best of my knowledge” costs such as roof penetration to secure solar panels was included. James answers questions he wants to be asked but never the ones that were. And what’s this “to the best of my knowledge” crap? Bottom line, the winning bid was Barrier Electric Co., Inc. for $2.4 million but we should expect more.

Okay, we now have a multi million-dollar project. Does anyone know what we’re purchasing? I speculated 540 panels in my blog "The Solar Project Smell Test” but an unsure Verbist suggested we "pick a number" like 600. I’m sorry but wishy-washy answers from guys spending millions of our tax dollars…even if he does expect a good return is maddening.

And about that return. It’ll take 4063 SREC (marketable energy rights) sold at $640 over the next 5 years to yield $2.6 million…. and we have no idea whether it’s even possible or if the district will hire a broker or manage the sales in house (If there’s a God, it won’t be Verbist).

To be fair however, there will be energy savings. It was mentioned in a few meetings that the electric bill for, Stoney Brook and Copeland is about $240,000 per year. At the December 8 meeting, Mike Friedberger mentioned a 54% annual savings for those schools; about $130,000 per year or $650,000 for five years. It seems an almost total reliance on SREC sales so somebody better decide on a plan…quickly.

Finally, there’s still a question of weak accounting control. One employee controls both purchasing and cash disbursement. Past auditors have noted the issue but it was felt that mitigating the problem would be too costly. Besides the school board has to authorize expenditures. But that was before the district decided to incur debt without voter approval and the board blindly accepted everything the business administrator says.


  1. I attended the same meeting you did and you must have missed out on the majority of the comments and responses. Maybe because you were too close to the PA system. The Board answered everyone of Tucker's questions. I had no problem with the Administrator hedging his answers with "to the best of my knowledge". Based on the tenor of your blogs and Tucker's incessant jabs at him for being hearing handicapped I would hedge a little too. I was at the audit presentation that you were at. He was recognized for having 6 or 7 straight error free audits. That to me says volumns. He must not be as a big of an idiot or incompitent as you and your disciples portend. I think he shows a lot of restraint while taking the verbal barbs from you and your associates. I would have responded to you in a manner you would not have gotten over too quickly but then I have never been known for discretion or patience. You don't try to hide your total dislike for that guy. But, I do remember an meeting my wife and I attended when you extrolled his 'Johnny on the spot" attitude and how valuable he was to the District. Just out of curiosity what did the poor guy do to go from aces in your book to public enemy #1? Based on your own admission this project will pay for itself in the 5 years of the loan they took out. The bids came in lower than expected and they are going to generate millions for the comunity to offset my out of sight taxes. I'm just guy who designs and builds rooms to me they have done a great job. The older woman on the Board hit it right on the head when she said we need to keep up with repairs. We don't want to be like Denville and have schools falling apart. The value of my home is all I have in this down turn economy. I'm happy they have a plan to try to stabilize my taxes and still get something done. You need to get over your anger man you think these people are bad you don't know what bad is.

  2. Bertram, You missed the point of Tucker’s comment. For a couple of years, Tucker has requested improvements in to minutes of board meetings. At the Nov. 3 meeting for example Giarratano gave a Power Point presentation on the solar project and there was detailed discussion on it’s strengths and weaknesses. Here’s what s recorded in the minutes:

    Board Communications Committee
    Mr. Giarratano provided a brief PowerPoint presentation on solar as an example of something the Communications Committee may use for a blast. Various Board Members and Residents asked questions. Dr. Verbist responded with information.

    Verbist not Kelly made issue of James hearing problem. He merely suggested an inexpensive recording device for more accurate minutes

    The exemplary audit reports do not include a system review. The last time one was performed, Tom Parciak was superintendent. The control weakness to which I refer was noted. From experience I know it is a dangerous situation and as I noted there are red flags indicating a problem. My next blog will highlight another.

    I never praised Verbist. If you paid attention, you’d realize I expressed doubt that James could administrate the solar project and run the district simultaneously. BTW Verbist is not nor has ever been “Aces” in my book.

    Again, I’m saying quite clearly that the project WILL NOT achieve 5-year payback. The facts show that even if enough SREC are generated, the selling price needed will not provide allow adequate compensation. And according to Friedberger’s estimate, only 630,000 .will be saved.