More than $300.2 million in school construction projects, ranging from classroom additions to security enhancements, were approved by voters in special elections held in 17 New Jersey school districts yesterday.
Voters approved construction bond issue referenda in 17 of 21 districts where elections took place. In several districts, where multi-part proposals were offered, the initial proposals were approved but secondary questions such as athletic facilities or tennis courts were rejected.
Most of the projects are slated to receive state funding: A total of $108.8 million in state aid is expected to go to the approved projects. Many are taking advantage of additional state school construction grants announced last year. The state gives priority to projects that address health and safety, such as roof and window replacement, compliance with construction code and the Americans with Disabilities Act, some security enhancements, and hazardous material abatement. Under the Educational Facilities and Construction and Financing Act of 2000, the state will fund at least 40 percent of eligible school construction costs through upfront grants, if available, or yearly debt service aid.
Continuing a trend that started after the December 2012 Newtown, Connecticut school shootings, at least a dozen of the proposed projects include security upgrades, such as vestibule/entry alterations, access controls and security cameras. Most of those were approved.
Among the six districts that offered multi-part referenda, most combined needs such as additional classroom space, HVAC systems and security measures in one question, with proposed athletic facilities in separate, additional propositions. Most aspects of athletic facilities are not eligible for state funding.
Results of those questions were mixed, with voters picking and choosing among the proposals. All six first questions were approved, but only Moorestown, which offered a two-part question, won approval of the entire project.
The bond referendums took place in Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset, Sussex and Warren.
The last Tuesday in September is one of five dates on which a school board may propose a bond issue to voters. For the remainder of this year, construction proposals may be placed on the November 4 General Election ballot (for those districts that elect school board members in November) and on December 9.