Scaled-back school improvements head to public vote in South River


SOUTH RIVER — The borough’s school district will have another opportunity to put proposed repairs to a vote this month.

In September, voters narrowly opposed a larger version of a project focused on building security and repairs by a vote of 283 opposed and 245 in favor.

Unlike the September proposal, the newer version does not include repaving parking lots, replacing sidewalks and outdoor stairs, technology infrastructure improvements and classroom additions.

“Following last September’s defeated referendum, the plan for undertaking improvements has been carefully developed with an eye towards addressing only critical needs with the support of the ROD grants,” Superintendent of Schools Michael Pfister said. “The building security and roofing projects represent a long-term solution to improving the operating effectiveness and efficiency of our schools.”

Pfister said individual projects captured by the proposal include roof replacements, an electronic locking door tied back into a card reader device, an intercom for communication from entrance to main office and multiple cameras for monitoring buildings.

“The building security system upgrade reflects the district’s commitment to making enhancements that will further augment safety at the primary, elementary and middle schools,” he said.

The district has scaled back its plans due to feedback received from community stakeholders. The plan now carries a cost of $5.2 million instead of $10.1 million.

The updated version would again be funded by a combination of state and local funds. The district would receive $2.7 million through Department of Education Regular Operating District (ROD) grants and $2.5 million in bonds.

However, should the referendum pass, there will be no tax increase as a result of paying off a prior bond, Pfister said.

If approved, work would begin in the summer.

Pfister said these improvements are essential for providing “effective learning environments.”

“The South River Public School District has endeavored to maintain schools that are safe, secure, comfortable and responsive to the waves of a rapidly changing global society as well as to our students’ changing needs,” he said. “Schools are regarded as a cherished investment and, as such, their continued maintenance is a top priority.”

Councilman Michael Trenga also addressed the issue during the Jan. 12 council meeting.

“I am fully behind this initiative,” he said, emphasizing that there is no tax increase associated with the project.

He said this project is an opportunity for the district to receive state funds — an opportunity the district lost out on last year.

He also said that if voters do not support the project, the work will still need to be done, and likely at full taxpayer cost.

“There’s not going to be any state money,” he said.

Polling places will be open 1-9 p.m. Jan. 27.

For more information on the project, visit