Two school construction projects totaling $16.5 million were approved during the Nov. 3 election. The state will pay about $3.9 million of the total cost of those projects.
The construction projects feature consolidations and renovations. No new school buildings were proposed.
Voters approved plans by the Alexandria school district in Hunterdon County to save money by consolidating its schools. An initiative in South Harrison in Gloucester County, to replace the gym flooring in the elementary school, was defeated. But Upper Pittsgrove school officials in Salem County won approval to replace a roof that officials say is in serious need of repair.
Voters were also asked to approve changes to local school election dates in Ridgewood, Bergen County, in Fredon, Sussex County, and in Belvidere, Warren County. The election changes were approved in Ridgewood and Fredon, but rejected in Belvidere.
Three other districts asked permission to exceed the state’s 2% cap on tax-levy increases. Cap levy increases were approved in Edgewater, Bergen County but rejected in Newfield, Gloucester County, and in the North Warren Regional School District in Warren County.
Lafayette in Sussex County won permission to reduce the number of board members from nine to seven.
Results were provided by the offices of the county clerks, and all election results, due to the high number of mail-in ballots, are subject to change. Results are unofficial until certified by the county clerks.
Nov. 3 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.
The two approved construction projects are at least partially eligible for state funds.
Here are the unofficial statewide figures gathered by the New Jersey School Boards Association from the offices of the county clerks:
Statewide amount proposed – $17,533,750
State funding proposed – $4,317,500
Statewide amount approved — $16,533,750
State funding approved — $3,917,500
South Harrison (Gloucester County) REJECTED
The school district had sought voter approval to spend $1 million to replace the gym flooring at South Harrison Elementary School, including fixtures, equipment and related work. The state would have paid 40% of the cost of the project.
Total amount: $1,000,000
State funds: $400,000
Alexandria (Hunterdon County) APPROVED
The Alexandria school district won approval to consolidate its schools. The approved project will expand and renovate the district’s middle school while closing and demolishing the elementary school. The board of education will apply $2 million in capital reserve funds to reduce the cost of the project to $12.99 million.
Total cost: $12,990,000
State funds: $2,500,000
Upper Pittsgrove (Salem County) APPROVED
Voters approved plans to replace the roof at the Upper Pittsgrove School. The roof is in poor condition throughout the entire building, coming loose over the lower wing. It leaks over the cafeteria and gymnasium, and the upper wing leaks over the hallway, according to information posted on the district’s website. The compromised infrastructure directly impacted the students as the Class of 2019 had to relocate its graduation ceremony because of a major leak in the gymnasium.
The state will pay 40%, or about $1.4 million of the $3.5 million total cost of the project.
Total cost: $3,543,750
State funds: $1,417,500
Tax-Levy Cap Questions
Edgewater (Bergen County) APPROVED
The school district won permission from voters to exceed the 2% tax-levy cap and raise an additional $5,855,000 for general funds in the 2020-2021 school year. These taxes will be used to reduce regular education class size in grades one through six; establish full–day kindergarten; reduce English as a Second Language (ESL) class size; reduce special education class size; add a second school nurse; add full–time and part–time maintenance and custodial staff, and add disinfecting supplies for increased sanitization of all facilities. In addition, the funds will pay to increase technology staff and bolster the Chromebook program; add lunch, recess, office and classroom aides; add an additional reading specialist; add courtesy busing; increase child study team members; add a speech therapist; add a child study team secretary; add a district guidance counselor and add one elementary principal. Approval of these taxes will result in a permanent increase in the district’s tax levy.
Total amount: $5,855,000
Newfield (Gloucester County) REJECTED
The Newfield Board of Education had sought to raise an additional $243,000 in taxes for one year only. Newfield is required to pay tuition to the Delsea Regional Board of Education for a prior year’s unanticipated increase in student enrollment. The increase would have put Newfield above the 2% cap on tax-levy increases. A yes vote would have authorized the board to adopt a budget that pays the tuition owed to Delsea, and it would not have resulted in a permanent increase in the tax levy, according to the district.
Total amount: $243,000
North Warren Regional School District (Warren County) REJECTED
Voters rejected the district’s request to exceed the 2% cap on tax-levy increases to add $200,000 to teacher salaries. The proposal would have resulted in a permanent increase in the tax levy.
Total amount: $200,000
Requests to Move School Election Dates
Ridgewood (Bergen County) APPROVED
Ridgewood voters approved moving municipal and school elections to November, starting in 2021. Because the ballot initiative was approved, as permitted by a 2011 state law, the annual organization meeting of the Ridgewood Board of Education will take place in the first week of January following the November general election in 2021. Members of the Ridgewood Board of Education whose terms would have expired by May 2021 will continue to serve in office until the January 2022 organization meeting. Most school boards in the state have changed their elections to November since the state law permitted them to do so nine years ago.
Fredon (Sussex County) APPROVED
Township voters approved a return of the local school board election to the third week in April. When school elections occur in November, school budgets do not require voter approval unless they exceed a 2% cap on tax-levy increases.
Belvidere (Warren County) REJECTED
The question on the ballot asked if the annual school election should move from November back to April. Voters said no.
Request to Reduce Number of School Board Members
Lafayette (Sussex County) APPROVED
The Lafayette Township Board of Education won approval to reduce the number of seats on the board from nine to seven.