Mon. Reg. plans $12.3M referendum

District plans eight projects, including solar panels, new gym


 Michael Cavalluzzi, of Eatontown, builds a sand castle near the shoreline at Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park in Long Branch on July 16. More photos, page 15 and at Michael Cavalluzzi, of Eatontown, builds a sand castle near the shoreline at Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park in Long Branch on July 16. More photos, page 15 and at Monmouth Regional High School will undergo major renovations this fall if voters approve a $12.3 million referendum.

Voters in the regional school’s sending districts of Eatontown, Shrewsbury Township and Tinton Falls will have the opportunity on Sept. 27 to approve or vote down the referendum that would fund a new gymnasium, classroom renovations and asbestos removal. District Business Administrator Maria Parry said in an email that the referendum would fund eight projects, including $3.7 million for science classrooms; $1.8 million for girls locker room renovations; $2.4 million for a new gym; $162,000 for two room renovations; $344,000 to repoint the building exterior; $631,000 for an audio/visual storage room; $2.5 million for a solar project; and $660,000 for asbestos removal. Parry said that the age of the school building makes the work crucial. “All eight projects are needed to maintain the progressive academic learning environment and keep Monmouth Regional High School competitive as an outstanding school district,” she said. “The building is 50 years old and, for example, the science classrooms have not been upgraded in 50 years.”

She said recent cuts to the school aid formula have necessitated the referendum.

“With the current state of school funding, the district could not fit these projects into their current operating budget without making cuts to curriculum and instruction,” Parry said. “The referendum provides the district a positive solution to areas that need to be addressed.”

Parry said the district has not discussed an alternate plan should the referendum fail.

She also said that if voters approve the measure, construction would take 18 to 20 months and would be broken down into three phases.

The first phase would be the asbestos removal, the second phase would be the solar panel project, as well as the repair and renovation work, and the final phase would be the construction of the new gym and science classrooms.

Expiring debt obligations might offset the $12.3 million price tag for the improvements, she said, and could have little impact for taxpayers.

“The referendum dovetails against bonds sold 15 years ago whose debt obligation is expiring, so there is potentially a minimum increase to a decrease in tax assessment,” Parry said.

She also said that the solar panel project may offset some of the costs, as well as have a lasting impact on the district’s energy bills.

“The return on investment, in the form of dollars back into the district to offset taxes from the solar panel installation, is the most ambitious of all of the projects,” Parry said.

“These monies, approximately $210,086 per year for 15 years, would allow the district to not only budget a lower dollar amount for electricity, but will provide the district with a positive cash flow revenue source through the selling of the renewable energy credits obtained by the panels.”

Parry also said the district is eligible for funding from the New Jersey School Development Authority.

That potential funding could end up being $4.2 million, which would represent 34 percent of the total project, she said.

Parry said that debt service aid figure is an estimate and it is also estimated that there would be a 20-year payback on the bonds sold to finance the project if the referendum is approved.

She said that with the estimated funding, the tax impact would potentially be a tax decrease per year of $5.81 for Eatontown residents, $2.44 for Tinton Falls residents, and $2.24 for Shrewsbury Township residents.

However, without the debt service funding the tax levy increase per year would be $13.92 for Eatontown, $16.01 for Tinton Falls, and $8.08 for Shrewsbury Township.

Parry said the district would host three open houses in September to inform the public and build support for the referendum.

“The open houses will begin with a presentation in the Performing Arts Center and continue with a tour of the facilities to see all eight projects that will be on the referendum question,” she said. “Individuals who attend the open houses will see the drawings for the proposed renovation/construction … and layout of the solar panel project.”

Representatives of the architectural firm Fraytak, Veisz, Hopkins and Duthie will be present to answer any questions that members of the public may have, Parry said.