NORTH BRUNSWICK — The township school district will have to decide on an alternate plan to educate its growing population of students.
A special referendum to build two new schools in town was defeated by voters on Dec. 8. The machine count was 1,137 yes to 1,537 no, with an additional 43 yes and 45 no votes by mail, for a total of 1,180 affirmative to 1,582 negative votes for the new schools, according to information provided by the Middlesex County clerk’s office.
“The obvious reason is because of the tax impact on the residents,” Superintendent Brian Zychowski said of why he believes the $87 million referendum failed.
Thirty-two acres outside of the Renaissance development on Route 130 south could have been designated as a fifth and sixth grade school, plus an early education center that would include the Board of Education’s administrative offices.
“There wasn’t a buy-in to how fiscally responsible the board was. We had a lot of fabrication and a lot of miscommunication [by residents],” Zychowski said. “Frankly, we are in a tough economy where people are unemployed and underemployed and people did not want to support it.”
However, Zychowski said the plan was fiscally prudent in the long run, and now the board faces an impact on taxes if children are sent out-of-district or if additions have to be constructed on existing buildings.
In a demographic study offered by the school board, enrollment increased from 4,523 to 6,302 students in the past 20 years, and the New Jersey Department of Education expects a 9 percent growth rate, or about 120 to 150 students each year, over the next five years.
“We have a responsibility to put children somewhere,” Zychowski said. “I think this was the most fiscally sound … way to address our overcrowded schools.”
Zychowski said that the Board of Education will meet to discuss an alternative plan that will “provide the optimum environment for learning.”