FAIR HAVEN: $15.6M SCHOOLS PLAN UNVEILED

fair haven schools sickles planNew classroom space and other facilities, shown in blue, would be built on a vacant lot adjoining the Sickles School, said Superintendent Sean McNeil, below. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

fair haven schools sean mcneil Fair Haven residents would get classrooms to allow for full-day kindergarten as well as improved security under a $15.6 million plan officials unveiled Wednesday.

The typical homeowner would also get a tax increase of as much as $566 per year if a public referendum on the plan passes muster with voters in September.

kristina nash fair havenKristina Nash attended the presentation with three-month-old daughter Harriet. Below, a chart shows the anticipated annual cost for debt service as borne by the owner of a home assessed at the current average $808,044.  (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

fair haven schools debt Sean McNeil, superintendent of the two-school, 968-student district, unveiled the capital plan Wednesday morning before a smattering of residents at the Viola Sickles School.

The proposal includes $12 million worth of work on the Sickles elementary school, where a new security vestibule would be created. The current security system, under which an employee mans the front door, is “in no way acceptable,” he said.

Sickles would also get a two-story addition on its eastern end to make room for full-day kindergarten.

McNeil said the district is one of only three in Monmouth County that doesn’t offer full-day kindergarten. The board of education had put off implementing the program in the past over concern about both adequate classroom space and the impact on the budget in the form of teacher salaries, he said.

Now, McNeil said he is “confident” that the district can absorb the estimated $250,000 annual cost of turning five part-time kindergarten instructors into full-timers with benefits. Those costs would be managed outside the referendum, which is solely for facilities, he said.

The Knollwood middle school, on Hance Road, would get $3.6 million worth of work, including a new off-hours entryway on the building’s southwest corner and a long-overdue heating and air conditioning system for the gym. Currently, the gym has to be “aired out” between classes by opening exterior doors, he said.

Knollwood would also get security upgrades over the coming summer, but those can be paid for under the current operating budget, McNeil said.

“These are things we no longer feel are luxuries or would be nice to have,” McNeil said of the plan. “We’re talking about the security of our buildings. We’re talking about fundamental advantages that 96 percent of kids in Monmouth County have that our kids don’t.”

Under the referendum, the district is eligible for state aid that will offset some of the cost to local taxpayers.

The plan would add $259 in the first year to the annual tax bill on a home assessed at the current townwide average of $808,044. That figure would climb to $560 for debt service alone by 2031, a year after existing debt approved under a $9 million referendum in 2003 is paid off, officials said

Over the life of the proposed 20-year bond, the average annual cost to that homeowner would be $429, Robbi Acampora, the district’s financial advisor, told redbankgreen.

“We tried to back-load it to soften the blow” in the first decade, while the existing bond is still being paid off, she said.

Kristina Nash, a mother of three who moved to the borough from Hoboken about a year ago, called the full-day K plan “very exciting.

“We came from a district where that would have been guaranteed,” she said, and friends who work in the education field have told her “what a benefit it is to children and their learning potential.”

The Sickles expansion will largely be set on a Willow Street lot acquired by the district for $390,000 in 2006, according to Monmouth County records. If the referendum passes, construction on the two sites would begin in the summer of 2020 and take about a year to complete, officials said.

Additional information sessions are scheduled for Thursday, 7  p.m. at Sickles School, and for June 13, 7 p.m. at Knollwood School. A subsection of the district website devoted to the referendum was scheduled to go live Wednesday afternoon, McNeil said.

Voting on the plan is scheduled for September 24.