On Tuesday, April 20, voters in six school districts will act on eight spending proposals totaling more than $302.6 million.
The spending proposals are led by a $168.3 million renovation project in Clifton, Passaic County, which the district is calling a “big picture, long-range approach” to upgrading all of its 19 buildings. River Vale, in Bergen County, has three spending proposals on the ballot. The district is seeking to upgrade security and build health and wellness centers for its students. Most of the other ballot questions concern construction of new classrooms and renovations.
Typically, April 20 is one of five dates during the year when school boards may ask voters to approve school construction, but due to the pandemic, Gov. Murphy canceled elections earlier this year. Under the Educational Facilities Construction and Financing Act, the state will fund at least 40% of eligible school construction costs through annual debt service aid. Proposed construction projects in all six school districts are at least partially eligible for state funds.
Here are the statewide figures gathered by the New Jersey School Boards Association from the offices of the county clerks:
Statewide amount proposed – $302,667,142
State funding proposed – $106,780,818
A synopsis of the proposed spending plans follows:
Buena Regional School District (Atlantic County)
The board of education is seeking approval for upgrades throughout the district, including an artificial turf field, roof, outdoor physical education, wrestling, training and related facilities at the Buena Regional High School. Upgrades are also planned for administrative and health offices, a media center and a new HVAC system. At the middle school, the district plans upgrades to the athletic facilities and other improvements, including a roof and security system upgrades. A new gymnasium and stage is planned for the John C. Milanesi School, which would also see expansion of the cafeteria and additional classrooms. New classrooms and a stage in the gymnasium are planned at the Dr. J. P. Cleary School in addition to athletic fields and a roof. Planned improvements at the Collings Lakes School include administrative and health offices, athletic fields, a parking lot and classrooms.
The district says that $23.6 million of the project is eligible for state funds and the state will pay 53.9% of the debt service for the final eligible costs.
Total amount: $30,604,822
State funds: $12,720,727
River Vale (Bergen County)
- Bond Proposal One The district seeks to build new construction front entrance canopies at Holdrum Middle School, Roberge Elementary School and Woodside Elementary School. The board of education is also seeking approval for the construction of a Wellness Center at Holdrum Middle School, at a total cost of about $31.8 million. About $6.8 million will be allocated from the district’s capital reserve, with about $25 million to be paid for through the proceeds of bond sales.
Total cost: $31,770,463
State funds: $11,041,838
- Bond Proposal Two (This second proposal will go into effect only if both the first and second proposals are approved by voters.)
The River Vale school board is seeking to provide air conditioning at Holdrum Middle School, Roberge Elementary School and Woodside Elementary.
Total cost: $9,025,031
State funds: $3,610,012
- Bond Proposal Three (This third proposal will go into effect only if the first proposal is also approved by voters.)
The River Vale school board is seeking to provide for Wellness Centers at Roberge Elementary School and Woodside Elementary School. The project is not eligible for state funding.
Total cost: $1,704,091
State funds: n/a
Waldwick (Bergen County)
The district is seeking voter approval for the following:
- The high school/middle school: a new secure front entrance; energy efficiency improvements including window replacement, replacement of the HVAC system and new lighting. The project would also include flooring, building upgrades and athletic facilities.
- Traphagen Elementary School: Renovation of Building #5, including energy efficiency improvements, window replacement, replacement of the HVAC system and new lighting, flooring and building upgrades.
- Crescent Elementary School: Site improvements including repaving and restriping.
Total cost: $30,550,000
State funds: $10,987,020
Fairfield (Essex County)
The district is seeking voter approval for the following:
- Adlai E. Stevenson Elementary: Additional classrooms, including a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) classroom, and renovations to provide technology space, resource rooms, special education classrooms, main office/administrative space and building upgrades including electrical system and toilet rooms; and
- Winston Churchill School: Expansion to provide additional classrooms, including science classrooms, small group instruction areas, a STEAM classroom; a gym, kitchen and ancillary mechanical, electrical and storage rooms. Renovations will make room for a technology space, special education classrooms, guidance and administrative spaces; a nurse’s suite, music room, band room and building upgrades including electrical system upgrades, boiler replacement and roof replacement.
Total cost: $29,740,500
State funds: $3,444,175
East Amwell (Hunterdon County)
The district is seeking permission to make a series of interior and exterior renovations and upgrades including the installation of a generator at the elementary school. The projects will be undertaken at a cost not to exceed $989,500 which will be funded through the issuance of a short-term bond.
Total cost: $989,500
State funds: $395,800
Clifton (Passaic County)
The district is seeking approval of a $168 million project that would improve safety, efficiency, and modernize every school in the district while capturing nearly $55 million in state funding towards the costs. On the district’s website, the school board said the project reflects “a big-picture, long-range approach” to providing what Clifton students need to learn while upgrading facilities to be safe, modern, and financially efficient.
The Clifton school district includes 19 buildings that have all been well maintained, but they – and their equipment – are old, the district said. Repair costs are increasing, and inefficiencies strain the operating budget. Almost all bathrooms are in need of renovation; some are original to 100-year-old buildings. Some heating/ventilation equipment is more than 60 years old, far beyond its recommended lifespan. All schools should have modern security measures such as enclosed security vestibules and improved security cameras, the district said.
Total cost: $168,282,735
State funds: $64,581,246