New Jersey voters in 19 school districts acted on 26 ballot proposals on Nov. 5, ranging from construction bond issues, to requests to increase the local tax levy above the state’s 2% cap, to proposed changes in composition of the local school board.
Voters approved 14 public questions and rejected 11, with one too close to call. In addition, 1,560 board of education positions were filled in 528 school districts. Results were reported by the offices of the county clerks and school district business administrators and are unofficial until certified by the clerks.
Ballot Questions Nineteen districts asked voters to consider special questions.
- Eight school boards asked voters to approve funding beyond the state’s 2% tax levy cap for specific items. Requests to exceed the levy cap were defeated in five of eight districts.
- 10 boards asked voters to approve borrowing for school construction projects. Seven boards saw their projects approved. Two school districts had projects rejected, including one district that saw all three of its construction requests defeated. In Oxford, Warren County, results were too close to call.
- One board of education, in Wenonah, Gloucester County, asked voters to approve a reduction in the size of the school board from nine to seven members. The request was approved.
- Proposals to expand mental health services for students in Collingswood, Camden County, and Metuchen, Middlesex County, were approved.
Tax Levy Questions
School boards may place questions on the ballot asking voters to approve spending outside of the state’s 2% tax levy cap. The question must state if the additional revenue sought would represent a permanent or a one-time increase in the district’s tax levy. The eight districts with tax levy questions included:
North Arlington (Bergen County) Three proposals were on the ballot. The first, for $1.8 million, would allow the district to hire five elementary school teachers, guidance counselors, music, phys ed and art teachers, a computer technician, a secretary and three custodians. A second proposal, for $709,305, would have allowed the district to hire six special law enforcement officers, Class III (SLEO III); six door monitors and staffing coverage for specific night events. A third proposal, for $780,290, would have permitted the hiring of seven pre-kindergarten teachers and seven pre-kindergarten aides. Approval of the questions would have resulted in a permanent increase to the district’s tax levy. ALL REJECTED.
Ramsey (Bergen County) $711,216 to hire personnel and purchase supplies to provide for full-day kindergarten in the district. Approval will result in a permanent increase to the district’s tax levy. APPROVED.
Saddle Brook (Bergen County) $475,000 to hire a student assistance coordinator, teachers in world language and health and physical education; a human resource administrative assistant, a supervisor of elementary education and additional professional development for faculty and staff. Approval would have resulted in a permanent increase in the district’s tax levy. REJECTED.
Collingswood (Camden County) $225,000 for counselors/mental health services to allow the district to develop and offer a comprehensive social-emotional and mental health services program to students and families. Approval will result in a permanent increase in the district’s tax levy. APPROVED.
Newfield (Gloucester County) $121,500 to pay required tuition to the Delsea Regional Board of Education to cover a prior year’s unanticipated increase in student enrollment. Approval would not have resulted in a permanent increase in the district’s tax levy. REJECTED.
Metuchen (Middlesex County) $700,000 to expand mental health and emotional support services for students throughout the district. District child study teams, school counselors, teachers, building administrators and parents have reported an increase in student anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns. The proposal asked the public to fund additional supports and interventions. Approval will result in a permanent increase in the district’s tax levy. APPROVED.
Netcong (Morris County) $35,000 to hire one security officer/school resource officer for the safety and security of students and staff on school grounds. Approval would have resulted in a permanent increase in the district’s tax levy. REJECTED.
North Warren Regional (Warren County) $200,000 to fund teacher salaries to maintain and/or to reduce class size. Approval would have resulted in a permanent increase in the district’s tax levy. REJECTED.
Other Ballot Questions
Wenonah (Gloucester County) The board of education did not pose a tax levy question but asked voters to approve a reduction of the size of the board from nine to seven members. APPROVED.
The annual school election also serves as one of five dates during the year when school boards may ask voters to approve school construction proposals.
On Nov. 5, voters in 10 school districts decided 15 proposed school construction questions. Under the Educational Facilities Construction and Financing Act of 2000, the state will fund at least 40% of eligible school construction costs through annual debt service aid.
A summary of the proposed projects follows:
Statewide amount proposed – $238,523,579
State funding proposed – $76,271,303
Statewide amount approved — $133,379,267
State funding approved — $48,152,786
Palisades Park (Bergen County) REJECTED
The Board of Education of the Palisades Park School District proposed to undertake a construction project consisting of facilities upgrades, renovation and expansion at the Palisades Park Jr./Sr. High School, the Charles Lindbergh Elementary School, and the Dr. Charles Smith Jr. Early Childhood Center.
Total amount: $61,139,346
State funds: $17,236,632
Verona (Essex County) BOTH APPROVED
Proposal 1: New roofs for every school building to replace roofs that are 22 years old; windows, stage rigging, paving, masonry, elementary school playground, boiler repairs, school security enhancements, gym floor replacement and a new phone communication system.
Total amount: $22,273,701
State funds: $8,909,480.40
Proposal 2: (contingent upon approval of Proposal 1): Air-conditioning in every school building.
Total amount: $5,497,802
State funds: $2,199,120.80
Flemington-Raritan Regional (Hunterdon County) BOTH APPROVED
Proposal 1: Upgrade Barley Sheaf Elementary, Copper Hill Elementary, Francis A. Desmares Elementary, J.P. Case Middle, Reading Fleming Intermediate and Robert Hunter Elementary schools including security upgrades; parking lot, sidewalk and fencing improvements; roof replacement at five elementary schools; window replacement and exterior building repairs at the Reading Fleming Intermediate School.
Total amount: $ 21,755,617
State funds: $7,000,000
Proposal 2: Air quality upgrades including air-conditioning and humidity control measures at Barley Sheaf Elementary, Copper Hill Elementary, Francis A. Desmares Elementary, Reading Fleming Intermediate and Robert Hunter Elementary schools.
Total amount: $20,308,019
State funds: $7,000,000
Rumson (Monmouth County) APPROVED
Projects to be undertaken include security upgrades, new HVAC units, remodeling of the libraries and science rooms to provide integrated technology in flexible and reconfigurable settings to accommodate a variety of learning opportunities for student exploration.
Total amount: $25,743,972
State funds: $7,875,770.40
Red Bank Borough (Monmouth County) APPROVED
Projects include roof repairs, masonry repairs, replacing an HVAC system, and replacing old windows with thermal efficient windows.
Total amount: $6,750,000
State funds: $2,700,000
Freehold Regional High School (Monmouth County) ALL REJECTED
Proposal 1: Enhanced security, including vestibule upgrades, interior door locking systems and replacement of existing public address systems at all schools. Critical infrastructure updates would have included roofing, paving and tennis court reconstruction at all schools. Manalapan High School would have received two additional tennis courts, the track would have been resurfaced at Colts Neck High School, and required safety repairs would have been made to the auditorium at Freehold High School.
Total amount: $20,167,639
State funds: $6,695,349.60
Proposal 2 (contingent upon approval of Proposal 1): Flexible science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) spaces would have been created in every school. These lab environments would have simulated real-world conditions where teachers lead student teams through the engineering process, from research and design to fabrication, assembly and testing. Renovations and safety improvements would have been made to existing bleachers in every school’s athletic stadium.
Total amount: $11,676,911
State funds: $2,647,772
Proposal 3 (contingent upon approval of Proposal 1): Installation of multi-purpose synthetic turf fields would have occurred at Freehold Township, Manalapan and Marlboro high schools, and flexible learning spaces would have been created at Colts Neck High School’s media center. Freehold High School’s auditorium would have had improved space utilization and expanded seating.
Total amount: $10,169,316
State funds: $658,123.20
Florham Park (Morris County) BOTH APPROVED
Proposal 1: Roof repairs, computer lab renovations, boiler replacement, renovations to the media center to create a science, technology, engineering, the arts and math (STEAM) lab and computer lab. Replace lighting and replace an emergency generator.
Total amount: $19,839,493
State funds: $7,935,797.20
Proposal 2 (contingent upon approval of Proposal 1): Renovate child study team and special services areas, replace flooring and windows, renovate bathrooms, mill and repave parking lots, access drives and sidewalks.
Total amount: $5,014,663
State funds: $2,005,865.20
Lavallette (Ocean County) APPROVED
Projects include new HVAC, roofing, and masonry, and heightened security, especially at the main entrance.
Total amount: $2,200,000
State funds: $880,000
Hackettstown (Warren County) APPROVED
Roof replacement and electrical service replacement at the middle school and high school, and roof replacement at the Hatchery Hill School.
Total amount: $3,996,000
State funds: $1,646,751.60
Oxford (Warren County) PENDING
Security upgrades including exterior window and door security upgrades; HVAC system improvements. Exterior water supply improvement. Repair and replace exterior stairs and ramps; gym floor refurbishing, roof flashing repairs, masonry and doorframe repairs.
Total amount: $1,991,100
State funds: $880,640.51