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Bancroft Referendum Rejected by Voters

Voter turnout was heavy for the hotly contested $12.5 million referendum in Haddonfield.

Haddonfield voters rejected a $12.5 million bond referendum Tuesday for the public purchase of the 19.2-acre Bancroft property at 425 Kings Highway East.

The final vote was 2,387 against and 2,136 in favor of the referendum, according to unofficial returns. The total does not include provisional votes cast on Election Day, which could take up to two days to count.

"Who says you can't beat city hall?" said Brian Kelly of Haddonfield United, a group that spearheaded opposition to the proposal. "We really made our voices heard on this one."

Opponents said the purchase was overpriced and would just be the beginning of more tax increases needed to cover spiraling costs, none of which will be addressed with the Bancroft referendum, they say. The inclusion of $1.2 million for an artificial turf athletic field was also a point of contention with some.

"When you lose, there's lots of factors," BOE President Steve Weinstein said. "Turf was a factor, taxes was a factor, fears about Radnor was a factor."

In fact, Radnor Field may have been the key factor in deciding this referendum. The high school athletic field is located in the district that turned out the most no votes by far in voting Tuesday. The referendum went down by 218 votes in that district, 629 to 411. The referendum was defeated by a total of 251 votes, according to unofficial results.

Some residents there were concerned the school board would eventually try to sell Radnor if it developed more athletic fields on a newly acquired Bancroft property. The fear was it could be converted into residential housing, including an affordable-housing component.

Voter turnout was heavy in the hotly contested election. The rejection halts the joint public purchase of the property by the Board of Education and the borough. The total cost of the $16 million purchase and development plan was was reduced by at least $3.5 million in open-space preservation funds from the borough, county and state.

"That money is gone now,"  Commissioner Ed Borden, who also sits on the borough planning board, said about the preservation money. "The prospects for a public purchase are clearly dead. We have to step back and see what happens."

Bancroft officials released a statement Tuesday detailing what they intend to do next.

"We are excited to begin the process of modernizing our campus, so we can provide the best possible services here in Haddonfield for many, many years to come," said Toni Pergoin, Bancroft's president and CEO. "We know there will be challenges along the way, but we look forward to working proactively with borough representatives to make the process as smooth and positive as possible for everyone."

Proponents of the plan said the purchase was necessary "to seize the opportunity of acquiring this historic and prominent 'gateway into Haddonfield' for use by the community at large, for educational and recreational purposes, to allow for possible future school expansion and development of a high school campus, and to secure an open space legacy."

But in the end, the vision of what could be was outweighed by the concerns.

Stay with Patch for more on the Bancroft referendum. To get Patch's breaking news alerts via email, sign up here

Martin Helsig January 25, 2013 at 02:20 AM
reposting from a later article The BOE, the Commissioners, and the developers all told the residents that in order to prepare for our future we needed to shoulder the costs of this development. Not once did I hear any of the triumvirate mention what they were going to do to help ease the cost of this project. What expenses could the BOE or our town cut to help the greater good of the community? What spending cuts would the BOE make? Everyone else in the private sector pays for benefits and their retirement. Why can't the public sector in Haddonfield do the same? Or how about our public works department or our town halls combine with other municipalities to help ease costs? Nope. It was always "we need to do this for the future, and YOU taxpayers need to pay this." This expectation is not realistic today. The private sector is tired of supporting everyone else while their standard of living stagnates. In any negotiation you have to give some in order to get something in return. That did not happen and a poorly communicated plan by our public servants resulted in the defeat of a great idea
David Siedell January 25, 2013 at 03:49 AM
Brian, That report is in a 10 year scope. The last was done in 2005. It was only commissioned early for Building And grounds chair could have a sense of the Bancroft purchase would have on the capital plan. The number of 18M in repairs is not in dispute. Over a 10 year period we normally spend 20M (roughly 2 M per year on a budget of 36M) so over 10 years we spend 20M on a budget of 360 Million. Hardly reckless spending. Capital expenditures are peanuts in the grand view of the school budget where labor costs, not including benefits, are 70% of the budget. That too although good for shock value makes sense, the school is about the people, the teachers. We laid off the custodians 2 years ago to great savings. Maybe not having dedicated resources that you can get more worth from is a cause of the current "decay" you point out on Haddonfield United. I'm not even disputing the current condition, but it is an effect of responsible fiscal management that caused the layoffs in the first place. I agreed it was better than laying off teachers, but there is a cost to every decision. Case in point, the Lizzie Haddon roof and painting projects are already complete. That finished this summer.
David Siedell January 25, 2013 at 03:53 AM
Jack, Thanks for posting. I'd encourage any interested party to review the report. Please keep in mind the time period scope of long term capital reports is 10 years. Also keep in mind we spend roughly 2M from the general budget of 36M yearly on capital repairs. The same budget that had a ZERO percent increase last year.
Brian Kelly January 25, 2013 at 04:25 AM
Silance, The math is written directly from the Garrison presentation. I didn't add everything to the final tally because it would take to much time. If you want copy go on HaddonfieldUnited@hotmail.com, give me your address and I'll send you Garrison's final workup.
Brian Kelly January 25, 2013 at 04:56 AM
Dave, The bottom line is how many of the repairs are essential today and how much more they'll be down line. BOE or Borough, they are both inept at maintaining the infrastructure of the town. Our next big expense is the water system. These were just some of factors that contributed to the no vote to Bancroft. We have to fix what we have before we take on more debt. As much as I commend the BOE for meeting the educational needs of our students, the thought of them taking on a 23 acre sports campus with their track record of maintenance was unacceptable. Before we pursue any vision of the future we have to make sure our house is in order.

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