Op-Ed: Still too many unanswered questions to vote for Hoboken’s $241M school referendum


In an editorial, Hoboken resident Pavel Sokolov, also the local GOP committee secretary, gives his two cents on why there are still too many unanswered questions to vote for the $241 million school referendum.

I am glad I had the opportunity to attend and speak at December 14th’s Hoboken Board of Education meeting regarding the proposed construction of a new High School.

It was refreshing to see so many of my friends and neighbors come together to stand against those who would see their voices silenced and their vote disenfranchised.

While the proposal itself, which was poorly presented and left many questions unanswered, was passed by the Board to go to referendum, almost everyone of the several dozen speakers expressed various concerns or issues that were left unresolved.

The prospect of a large property tax hike which would only serve to price more middle class families out of Hoboken, for a facility that is more sports complex than school, can only lead one to question where the priorities of this proposal lie.

No indication was given as to how this new building would improve student outcomes, and only a tacit admission that the real issue is elementary school enrollment, not high school enrollment as the proposal originally claimed.

As the referendum approaches in a few short weeks, it is important to recognize that a vote of this magnitude, authorizing a quarter billion in tax increases, should be conducted with as much voter participation as possible.

Why is this vote being held in January as opposed to the upcoming primary or general election, a special election such as this is estimated to cost our taxpayers at least $75,000.

I would urge the residents of Hoboken to vote against this proposal, as it exemplifies a type of unethical politics that we should be moving away from in Hudson County.

In order to better contextualize the proposed property tax increase of $93 per $100k in assessed value, we have launched a search tool which will allow residents to see the tax increase over the 30 year period linked here.

If anyone is interested in learning more or getting involved please consider viewing this Facebook page dedicated to discussing the Referendum.

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    • It’s not in the best interest of Hoboken residents which is why the money grab is taking place with an obscure election most won’t know about on January 25th.

      It’s all going according to plan.

  1. The most troubling part of all this is the breathtaking dishonesty. The lies make it seem like the BOE itself doesn’t think this project can be justified by the truth. And the truth is that it can be.

    The reason for doing this is not because the student population is growing overall and certainly not because Hoboken’s population is growing. The middle and high school populations are not growing at all, and nobody can possibly really think that buildings a $241 million new high school is the way to create more space for pre and grade schoolers.

    The problem being addressed here is that the middle and high school populations are NOT growing. This is supposed to make those upper level populations grow by getting more families with other choices to send their kids to schools that they won’t send their kids to now. That’s why the plan includes an ice hockey rink when pretty much no current middle or high school student even knows how to ice skate.

    This building costs $241 million because it’s designed to be a magnet for a particular demographic not just a school. It’s basically a huge PR bet grounded in the idea that this will change what are thought to be unfair perceptions about the quality of the schools grounded in the reality of low test scores. The thinking is that the new building will attract a higher achieving demographic which will then boost test scores which will then attract more of that demographic raising test scores more. The upward cycles would feed on itself and continue to spiral upward.

    If this works and HHS quickly becomes perceived as a top performing public high school, Hoboken property values will soar.

    It’s unclear however, even if this works, how this would improve the quality of education or performance of the demographic that currently attends the school. Indeed, it could result in their needs falling through the cracks more, not less.

    If it doesn’t work – it pretty obviously a lot of money to have wasted on a losing bet.

    I’m inclined to support this because I think it’s important to have more people be not just comfortable but happy about sending their kids to the high school. Since the test scores are what they are, and nobody wants their kid to be a lab rat, a big jolt is needed. I’m comfortable with the cost because I think going all in dramatically increases the likelihood of success, and i’d rather bet more and win than bet less and throw away the money.

    But I’d like to hear a whole lot more about how the BOE intends to leverage this to improve outcomes for the current demographic. Having more honor students doesn’t help struggling students do any better. Addressing this issue would go a long way to answer the very valid concern that this is an investment targeted to benefit the wealthy and those in need will, once again, be left behind.

    • @Honest, all of the valid questions you raise are just some of the reasons why it’s absolutely SINFUL that this enormously consequential decision is being made during the holidays when few voters are paying attention, and voted on in the depths of January when turnout will be extremely low.

      The obvious that the BOE is trying to sneak this through the back door because they know their plan is highly suspect.

      It’s SHADY AS HELL, vote NO!

      • It’s not shady. It’s common sense to that given the authority to control the timing the BOE would schedule a vote when they thought they would have to the best opportunity to succeed. If you don’t like that reality, blame the State that gave school board’s across the State that discretion. Don’t blame the BOE for using the discretion the State have them.

        The issues here are not rocket science. Hoboken voters are perfectly capable of learning the pros and cons and casting an informed decision on January 25th.

        By all mean, make your case against on its merits. But calling a new high school “shady” will not advance your cause. By all means say it’s too expensive. Say it is elitest. Those are fair questions proponents ought to provide answers to. But there is nothing “shady” about the Hoboken Public School Foundation and the many Hoboken families who have been advocating for a project like this for years.

        Stooping to that level will not get you the result you want. All it does is discredit your argument and hinder rather than facilitate the honest discussion this issue deserves.

        • The 3 BOE candidates who knew and did not let the public know what was being pushed in November.
          THAT IS SHADY ! That is not honest ! That is a lie of intentional omission !

          Voting NO in January will force Johnson and the BOE to be honest and give the the public all the real facts.

  2. Everyone is so untrue
    Honesty is hardly ever heard
    And mostly what I need from you
    But if you look for truthfulness
    You might as well be blind
    It always seems so hard to give

  3. Hoboken taxpayer’s deserve answers.
    The BOE is not willing to give them.
    Voting this referendum down with a no vote in January will send a loud and clear message that the BOE must answer to the people.
    Rushing the vote with limited facts during a holiday period when most residents are distracted is unethical and Dr Johnson has proven she is unworthy of the public’s trust and all future actions of the BOE now must be viewed a self-serving and suspect.