With the $9.3 million referendum in Spotswood only a few weeks away, the district superintendent heard concerns from residents about the potential tax impact, as well as the need for the repairs planned for the district’s four schools.
“That is quite a bit, a big increase for the average homeowner and taxpayer,” said resident Cheryl Bess about the proposed increase of $9.80 a month in taxes paid the school district. “With the participation rate in the labor market going down, fewer people are working. The taxpayers aren’t getting increases; they’re not moving ahead.”
At the Oct. 5 Borough Council meeting, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Scott Rocco presented facts about the referendum.
The Nov. 3 referendum will ask residents to decide if they want to fund $9.3 million worth of improvements to the four district schools.
According to Rocco, if the referendum is approved by voters, the state will kick in $3.1 million in the form of grants and debt service aid.
Bess also questioned whether the district advertised the referendum because the proposed tax increases, she said, could be a burden on some families in the borough.
“I do not think that, once the average taxpayer finds out the cost of this project to us, they will be in favor of voting for a tax increase,” said Bess.
According to Rocco, the district is trying to get the word out through social media, placing ads on government buildings as well as through local newspapers and cable news channels.
“We’re using a couple different avenues to get information out,” said Rocco in response to Bess’s comments. Rocco also expressed interest in meeting with community members who wish to speak about the referendum if they call his office.
Resident Terry Gunn asked what the proposed referendum changes would do to raise the caliber of teachers at the district. “How is that raising the caliber of a staff member?” Rocco responded, “I think if someone were to walk into our buildings and find them in disrepair or see a condemn sign on the bleachers on the football field, or the fact that our track team would have to have practice off site, I think it would lower the caliber of candidates who would want to come to our building.”
Other residents voiced their approval of the referendum.
“It sounds like we really need those renovations. It won’t just be good for the kids, but it will be good for the whole town. The kids aren’t the only ones who use those buildings,” said borough resident Frank Kardashian.
“I expect every year my taxes are going to go up. I’m not foolish, but just do what you got to do. I don’t like to pay taxes, but if you want to have good facilities you have to pay the piper.”
At Spotswood High School, the funding would provide security cameras with video backup; telecommunication system upgrades; HVAC upgrades, as well as energyefficient roof and window re-placement; 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 surfaces.
Children from Spotswood, Helmetta and Milltown attend the district schools.
If the referendum passes, school taxes in Spotswood would increase by $9.80 for a home assessed at the borough average of $255,026.
In Helmetta, the increase would be $8.29 for a home assessed at the borough average of $205,545.
Taxpayers in Milltown, which sends around 280 students to the high school, would see an increase of 54 cents in school taxes for a home assessed at the borough average of $163,634.