Bond voting could saddle taxpayers with $464.1 million in new debt

 On Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018 voters in nine school districts will act on 15 school construction projects totaling more than $464.1 million. 

In North Bergen in Hudson County, voters will act on funding for a proposal, totaling $65 million, which could impose a $350 per year tax increase on an average homeowner, although officials seem to have been dishonest about that cost to taxpayers.

North Bergen officials have said the bonds will not be paid for by local homeowners but the majority of the debt is going to impact property taxes despite a partial share of costs being carried by the state.

The North Bergen bond measure would enable the district to acquire a former county technical school to house district-operated career and technical education (CTE) programs for grades 9-12, as well as educational programming for grades 7-9.

The proposal includes improvements to other district facilities that will enable the creation of a STEM Academy and a business and medical arts program.

Cherry Hill in Camden County has a three-part $210.8 million proposal that includes school safety upgrades, including the construction of secure vestibules at several buildings, and modernized science labs throughout the district.

Security upgrades are prevalent among the proposals, incorporating several untested measures in reaction to the recent increase in school shootings because elected officials have failed to overcome resistence to common sense action to restrict gun and ammunition sales to appropriate buyers.

Many districts, including Cherry Hill and North Bergen, are also proposing replacement and repair of roofs and/or HVAC systems or other projects related to health and safety.

Dec. 11 is one of five dates during the year when school boards may ask voters to approve school construction proposals.

Under the Educational Facilities Construction and Financing Act, the state will fund at least 40 percent of eligible school construction costs through annual debt service aid.

Here is the statewide information gathered by the New Jersey School Boards Association from the offices of the county clerks and school district websites for the upcoming election:

Statewide amount proposed – $464,106,692
State funding proposed – $160,328,190

(State reimbursement through annual debt service aid equaling at least 40 percent of eligible costs)

A synopsis of proposed construction projects follows:

Ramsey (Bergen County)

Renovation, upgrade and expansion of Ramsey High School facilities; security upgrades for Eric S. Smith Middle School, Dater, Hubbard, and Tisdale elementary schools. Construction of pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classrooms at Hubbard and Tisdale only if funds are made available for personnel and supplies.

Total amount: $42,915,930
State funds:  $10,435,158

Maple Shade (Burlington County)

·         Proposal 1: Renovations and security upgrades for the Yocum Elementary School; construction of a single story, nine-classroom addition with security upgrades at the Wilkins Elementary School; security upgrades and improvements at the Steinhauer Elementary School; construction of a new auxiliary gym addition and renovations at Maple Shade High School.

Total amount: $43,037,999
State funds: $15,125,790

·         Proposal 2 (Contingent upon approval of Proposal 1): HVAC replacement and other upgrades at the Yocum, Wilkins, and Steinhauer elementary schools; other renovations, including installation of security vestibule at the main entrance and construction of new transportation office at the school district central offices.

Total amount: $6,742,813
State funds: $2,415,799

Cherry Hill (Camden County)

·         Proposal 1: A district-wide upgrade, renovation and expansion of schools including security upgrades and improvements; roof replacement and HVAC improvements and the addition of security vestibule entrances to Harte, Kingston, and Stockton elementary schools, and the Carusi and Rosa middle schools. Conversion of all-purpose room to cafeteria and construction of a new multi-purpose room at Johnson Elementary School.

Total amount: $49,734,143
State funds: $18,757,043

·         Proposal 2 (Contingent upon approval of Proposal 1):  A district-wide upgrade, renovation and expansion of schools including ceiling and lighting replacement, electrical upgrades, HVAC upgrades; conversion of cafeteria to music rooms and construction of a new cafetorium at Rosa Middle School. School-wide renovation and upgrades at Carusi Middle School including conversion of an all-purpose room to a cafeteria, and construction of new multi-purpose rooms at Barton, Kingston, Knight, Mann and Sharp elementary schools.

Total amount: 113,402,251
State funds: $40,155,155

·         Proposal 3 (Contingent upon approval of Proposals 1 and 2): District-wide upgrades, including renovated science labs and gymnasium at Carusi Middle School; renovated locker rooms at Carusi and Beck middle schools, and  High School East and High School West. Auditorium upgrades at High School East, renovated science labs at High School West, athletic facilities improvements at High School East and High School West.

Total amount: $47,636,213
State funds: $17,233,635

North Bergen (Hudson County)

Purchase of the former Hudson County High-Tech High School to serve district-operated CTE programs for grades 9-12 and the education program for all students in grades 7-9. Renovations and alterations of other district schools to enable a realignment plan that includes a new STEM Academy and other programs, as well as reduced elementary school class sizes. The district will use $4,958,000 from capital reserve to help fund the project and issue bonds for $60 million to finance the rest.

Total amount: $64,958,000

State funds: $25,482,501
Capital reserve: $4,958,000

Princeton (Mercer County)

An addition and renovations at Community Park Elementary School and improvements at Johnson Park, Littlebrook, and Riverside elementary schools, with additional improvements at the middle school and high school.

Total amount: $26,928,351
State funds: $8,671,364

Manalapan/Englishtown (Monmouth County)

·         Proposal 1: Additions and renovations at Lafayette Mills School, including acquisition and installation of furnishings, fixtures and site work.

Total amount: $3,540,000
State funds: $36,000

·         Proposal 2: Renovations and improvements at the Clark Mills School, Dawes Early Learning Center, Lafayette Mills School and the Milford Brook, Pine Brook and Taylor Mills schools.

Total amount: $14,688,000
State funds:  $5,875,200

·         Proposal 3: Renovations and improvements, including heating, ventilation and air conditioning at the Clark Mills and Lafayette Mills schools; the Manalapan-Englishtown Middle School and the Milford Brook, Pine Brook and Taylor Mills schools.

Total amount: $16,371,000
State funds: $6,548,400

Red Bank Regional High School (Monmouth County)

·         Proposal 1: Renovations, alterations and improvements at Red Bank Regional High School.

Total cost: $19,932,200
State funds: $5,153,800

·         Proposal 2 (Contingent upon approval of Proposal 1): Installation of artificial turf, restrooms and a concession stand at Red Bank Regional High School.

Total cost: $2,286,000
State funds: $624,000

Plumsted (Ocean County)

Renovations, alterations, and improvements at New Egypt’s high school, middle school, primary school and Woehr Elementary School.

Total cost: $9,535,862
State funds: $3,814,345

Lakeland Regional High School (Passaic County)

Installation of a synthetic turf football field and track resurfacing, with upgrade of athletic support facilities and fencing improvements.

Total cost: $2,397,930


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