Two of Woodbridge's three high schools will be lit up by the autumn. That's because the township council voted to approve a $600,000 bond to install stadium lights at and High Schools to enable them to have night games the way that has in its stadium for years.
The bond will also include improvements to to turn that school's auditorium into a professional theatre.
While the borrowed money comes in the form of a 30 year bond, Mayor John McCormac persuaded the council that the improvements to Board of Education property will be paid in the form of 'Payment in Lieu of Taxes', or PILOT monies that will be coming from companies with whom the administration is in negotiation to move into the township.
The mayor said he couldn't reveal who the companies were, when they'd be moving into the township, or the amount of PILOT money he projected the township would realize.
His spokesman, John Hagerty, later said that the companies who would be involved with the PILOT program would move in before the end of 2012.
The $600k expenditure, McCormac said at the council meeting, is "very, very worthwhile."
Even though the bond ordinance was passed, the mayor said that "we will never issue a bond" for the project.
"We will get the money from the PILOTs," McCormac said, adding that it was only "temporary finance for a couple of years" until it was paid off.
Council President Gregg Ficarra called the bond ordinance a "short term funding mechanism."
"We have a guarantee of the PILOT; that money is assured," Ficarras said. "Or else we wouldn't be taking a chance."
Passing the ordinance quickly was necessary so the work could be done as fast as possible, so the schools to receive the night lit stadiums as soon as they were able.
Dozens of parents, teachers, and other interested residents and employees filled the council chambers last Tuesday, as they had for the previous council meeting before the ordinance was introduced.
"It'll go a long way to give the kids what they need and want, and what the taxpayers deserve," said Ezio Tamburello, vice president of the , who was in the audience. "It's a total win."
Michael Cilento, principal of John F. Kennedy High School, one of the schools to receive the stadium lights, said that their installation was "overdue."
"On a Friday night, young people will be able to come [to games] with their families," he said.
Not everyone was pleased with the ordinance, which some thought appeared to be rushed.
Tom Maras, a frequent McCormac critic, said he thought the ordinance seemed like a way to dodge putting the issue before taxpayers.
Capital improvements for schools that need to be bonded are by state law required to be voted on by taxpayers in school board elections.
In addition to the two high school stadiums receiving lights, Woodbridge Middle School will have its auditorium revamped to serve as a theatre. With its improvements, the middle school will replace the , which had previously been rented for the use of community-based theatre groups.
McCormac had tried to , but when the board of the club rejected the offer, fearing a township takeover of their private organization and its property, the mayor looked elsewhere to provide a home for the theatre ensemble.