Three construction projects totaling $17.5 million in proposed spending are on the ballot in the upcoming election. The state would pay about $4.3 million of the total cost of those projects.
The three construction projects feature consolidations and renovations. No new school buildings are proposed.
For example, the Alexandria school district in Hunterdon County is seeking to save money by consolidating its schools. South Harrison in Gloucester County wants to replace the gym flooring in the elementary school, and Upper Pittsgrove in Salem County is asking voters to approve the replacement of a roof that officials say is in serious need of repair.
Voters are also being asked to approve changes in local school election dates in Ridgewood, Bergen County and in Fredon, Sussex County. Three other districts are asking permission to exceed the state’s 2% cap on tax-levy increases, and Lafayette in Sussex County wants to reduce the number of board members from nine to seven.
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.
Proposed construction projects in all three 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 – $17,533,750
State funding proposed – $4,317,500
South Harrison (Gloucester County)
The school district is seeking voter approval to spend $1 million to replace the gym flooring at South Harrison Elementary School, including fixtures, equipment and related work. The state will pay 40% of the cost of the project.
Total amount: $1,000,000
State funds: $400,000
Alexandria (Hunterdon County)
The Alexandria school district is seeking to save money by consolidating its schools. The proposed project would 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)
The referendum seeks approval 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 last year 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 Increase Requests
Edgewater (Bergen County)
The school district is seeking 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)
The Newfield Board of Education is seeking 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 put Newfield above the 2% cap on tax-levy increases. A yes vote will authorize the board to adopt a budget that pays the tuition owed to Delsea, and it will not result in a permanent increase in the tax levy, according to the district.
Total amount: $243,000
North Warren Regional School District (Warren County)
If voters approve the district’s request to exceed the 2% cap on tax-levy increases, the district will add $200,000 to teacher salaries. The proposal would result in a permanent increase in the tax levy.
Total amount: $200,000
Requests to Move School Election Dates
Ridgewood (Bergen County)
Ridgewood voters are being asked to approve moving municipal and school elections to November, starting in 2021. If the ballot initiative is 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. The Board of Education’s next organization meeting would take place in the first week of January 2022; and the 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)
Township residents have placed a question on the ballot, asking voters to approve 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. The ballot question says that the move to November elections “denied the taxpayers” the “opportunity for meaningful input in the local control of Fredon School District finances.” Local teachers and staff have opposed the measure, fearing budget cuts, according to media reports.
Request to Reduce the Number of School Board Members
Lafayette (Sussex County)
The Lafayette Township Board of Education is asking whether the number of seats on the board should be reduced from nine to seven.