Voters in three towns will decide on $9.3M in school upgrades

Staff Writer

Taxpayers will decide whether or not they want to help fund $9.3 million in multiple improvements at the district’s four schools in Spotswood.

According to Superintendent Scott Rocco, the referendum would allow Spotswood’s school district to immediately address critical security, safety, facility and classroom heating/ventilation needs.

If approved, the local share that taxpayers would fund is expected to be $6.1 million. The district expects the state to kick in $3.1 million; $1.1 million in the form of Regular Operating District [ROD] grants and roughly $2 million in debt service aid.

State aid is expected to account for 33.7 per cent of the expected total cost.

Rocco noted that state funding would only be available if the referendum is approved by voters.

In addition to Spotswood, taxpayers would be affected in Helmetta, which sends students to all four Spotswood schools, and Milltown, which sends students to Spotswood High School.

If voters approve the referendum in November, there would be a tax increase of $9.80 a month in school taxes for the owner of a home assessed at the Spotswood borough average of $255,026.

In Helmetta, the owner of a home assessed at the borough of $205,545, would have an expected school tax increase of $8.29 per month.

Milltown residents would pay a percentage of the interest on the Spotswood High School projects. The owner of a home assessed at the borough average of $163,634 would expect a $ 0.54 a month increase in the school tax bill.

Milltown residents pay a significantly lesser amount in school taxes due to the relatively small number of students — 281 students from Milltown – who attend Spotswood High School. Sherry Tracey, of Phoenix Advisors, which is advising the district on the financial aspects of the referendum, explained the financial aspects of the funding.

“What the district would do, if the referendum was successful, they would bond both the local share and the state share that qualifies for debt service aid so it ends up being an $8.2 million bond issue,” she said at the board of education’s Sept. 1 meeting.

If funding is approved, upgrades will include multiple security, technology, as well as ventilation improvements to all four district schools.

At Spotswood High School, the funding would provide security cameras with video back up; telecommunication system upgrades; HVAC upgrades, as well as energyefficient roof and window replacement; locker room renovations; and bleacher and track replacements.

Improvements at Memorial Middle School would include upgrades to the telecommunication system as well as roof replacement.

At E. R. Appleby and G. Austin Schoenly elementary schools, improvements would include upgrades to security cameras, fire alarms, ventilation systems telecommunications, and playground surface improvements.

The proposed upgrades for the district schools were decided on by a survey sent during the last school year to residents.

The results of the survey led to the development of the referendum proposal for November, Rocco said.

Before the vote in November, board officials said that they will attempt to provide information to residents about the proposals.

“We want to spread the word and get the parents excited and get their support,” said Rocco.

There will be a presentation on the referendum during the Oct. 5 Borough Council meeting.

If the referendum is approved, Rocco said construction is expected to begin as early as the summer of 2016.