On Tuesday, Jan. 28, voters in five school districts approved spending proposals totaling nearly $100 million.
Voters in Deptford, Gloucester County; Millburn Essex County; and Washington Township, Morris County approved their ballot questions by wide margins. In East Rutherford, Bergen County and Woodbury Heights, Gloucester County, officials said preliminary vote totals showed ballot questions passed by fewer than a dozen votes. Mail-in ballots, which had not been counted on Wednesday morning, could change the results.
In Mantua, Gloucester County, the first ballot question was defeated by less than 50 votes. A second question was rejected by 122, according to preliminary results. Officials said uncounted paper ballots could alter the outcome of the election.
In Gloucester County, Deptford voters approved new additions to the Monongahela Middle School, with renovations to science labs and teacher workspaces. In Mantua, two questions were defeated, according to preliminary results. The first asked approval to build new kindergarten classrooms, upgrade a security vestibule and replace a gymnasium floor. The second sought approval to build new pre-kindergarten bathrooms and playground upgrades. In Woodbury Heights, voters, by an unofficial narrow margin, approved plans to build a new security vestibule and replace the gym floor.
Elsewhere in the state, East Rutherford in Bergen County, if preliminary results hold, voters approved construction of a three-story school building adjacent to Faust Intermediate School. In Millburn, Essex County, voters approved making repairs and improvements throughout the district. In Washington Township, Morris County, the district won approval to upgrade its heating and cooling system while also replacing the roof at the Long Valley Middle School.
Jan. 28 is one of five dates during the year when school boards may ask voters to approve school construction. 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.
Results, collected by the New Jersey School Boards Association from the offices of the county clerks and school districts, are unofficial until certified by the county clerks.
Here are the statewide figures gathered by the NJSBA from the offices of the county clerks:
Statewide amount proposed – $110,882,487
State funding proposed – $26,352,617
Statewide amount approved — $99,847,237
State funding approved — $23,912,805
A synopsis of the proposed spending plans follows. Districts where results could change when paper ballots care counted are marked “pending”:
East Rutherford (Bergen County) APPROVED — PENDING
East Rutherford schools are struggling with higher enrollment and aging buildings, and the bond proposal addresses both needs. Over the next four years, East Rutherford schools expect an enrollment increase of 30%. The bond proposal includes a Faust School addition of 11 classrooms, and a McKenzie School renovation to create 2 classrooms. Aging buildings create other needs. The original McKenzie School was built in 1910, and Faust in 1927. Some of the facilities and equipment are original to those old buildings. Proposed projects would improve energy efficiency, security, accessibility, and the overall school environment.
Total amount: $35,553,000
State funds: $6,091,360
Millburn (Essex County) APPROVED
If voters approve Millburn’s construction request, security vestibules will be upgraded throughout the district, roofs will be replaced at the Deerfield, Glenwood, Hartshorn and South Mountain schools, a new cafeteria addition will be built at the Middle School, and windows or stairs will be repaired or replaced at the Wyoming and Washington schools. Project approval will not raise taxes, the district says, because new debt will be issued only as existing debt is paid off.
Total amount: $20,500,000
State funds: $6,879,754
Deptford (Gloucester County) APPROVED
Proposed construction includes an addition at the Middle School that would have 16 classrooms, two science labs, a music room, and a new central district office space with a public meeting room. At the high school, the auditorium would be repaired, and a new HVAC system would be installed for the band and choral rooms. Poured mercury floors would be replaced at the Central, Pine Acres and Shady Lane schools.
Total amount: $37,616,854
State funds: $8,893,035
Mantua (Gloucester County) BOTH REJECTED — PENDING
Proposal 1: At the Sewell Elementary School, construction would include security upgrades; removal and replacement of a mercury-emitting gym floor; additional kindergarten classrooms, and new playground surfaces. At the Centre City Elementary School, the proposed work would include removal of fabric that covers classroom walls; HVAC cooling tower replacement and upgraded security and emergency notification systems. At the J. Mason Tomlin Elementary School, proposed projects include improved security, HVAC cooling tower replacement and upgraded security and emergency notification systems. Taxes will not increase if Proposal 1 is approved, according to the district.
Total amount: $9,650,000
State funds: $1,885,712
Proposal 2 (Contingent upon approval of Proposal 1): At the Sewell Elementary School, referendum approval would allow construction of prekindergarten ADA accessible bathrooms; removal of carpet in classrooms, replaced by non-allergenic vinyl tile. At the Centre City Elementary School, a new, ADA-compliant playground surface would be built; carpet in classrooms would be removed and replaced with non-allergenic tile. At the J. Mason Tomlin Elementary School, a new ADA-compliant playground surface would be installed.
Total amount: $1,385,250
State funds: $554,100
Woodbury Heights (Gloucester County) APPROVED — PENDING
Improvements to the infrastructure at all schools would include: enhanced safety and security, including a vestibule addition and relocation of the main office to the secure entrance; upgraded fire alarm, interior security hardware and new gym flooring; creation of small group instruction spaces to support enrichment classes and students with special needs. The $2 million total cost of the project will be reduced to $1.78 million because the district is using $225,000 from its capital reserve fund to defray costs.
Total amount: $2,003,135
State funds: $378,957
Washington Township (Morris County) APPROVED
The district is seeking to undertake heating and ventilation improvements including air-conditioning and humidity control measures; electrical service upgrades and partial roof replacements at Old Farmers Elementary School and Long Valley Middle School.
Total amount: $4,174,248
State funds: $1,669,699