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RED BANK: $6.75M REFERENDUM PLANNED

red-bank-primary-school-081319-1-500x332-4262338Red Bank Primary School, with a newly completed fire access road at left, would get a new roof if the November 5 measure passes. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot-topic_03-220x138-9108919A referendum on $6.75 million worth of school improvements will be on the ballot for Red Bank voters in November, under a plan approved by the board of education Tuesday night.

The project won’t increase property tax bills, officials said.

The spending would pay for a new roof and upgrades to the heating and cooling systems at the primary school, on River Street, and replacement of all the windows plus masonry and site work at the middle school, on Harding Road, representatives of the Spiezle Architectural Group told the board at its monthly meeting.

Those projects constitute the highest priorities on a list of long-deferred capital spending items classified as “immediate needs” that could have exceeded $20 million, said architect Steven Siegel.

“We want to make sure these buildings are watertight,” he said. “The priorities started with that.”

If approved by voters November 5, the projects won’t push up local taxes, said financial advisor Robbi Acampora. That’s because repayment of the debt would be timed to start immediately following the payoff of existing debt in June, 2021, and because the New Jersey Department of Education has agreed to pickup 40 percent of the cost.

“We were asked to look at how much the district could borrow without a tax increase,” she said. Under the proposal on the ballot, “there will be zero impact” on local taxpayers, she said.

In fact, though the state requires that the ballot question (see below) say that state aid on the debt “will equal” 40 percent of the cost, the DOE in recent years has covered about 34 percent of such obligations, said Tony Solimine, a bonding attorney with the McManimon Scotland and Baumann firm.

“Of course, we have not always gotten what we’re entitled to,” said board member Ben Forest, alluding to the $6 million per year that the state has not provided, as required by law, over the past number of years. “We have been chronically underfunded for as long as I’ve served on this board, since 2004. We’ve cut corners, without jeopardizing safety, but it’s been very hard to maintain these buildings.”

Acampora’s projections, however, anticipate that lower level of support from the state, said Solimine.

The budget also includes provisions for “unknown contingencies,” Siegel said.

The work would likely be done over the summers of 2020 and 2021, though the windows could be replaced on weekends during the school year without any disruption of classes, Siegel said.

No members of the public spoke about the matter during the open comment portion of the meeting.

The plan comes a year after voters in three towns, including Red Bank, approved a $17.9 million capital plan for Red Bank Regional High School, in Little Silver.

Here’s the ballot wording:

PROPOSAL

The Board of Education of the Borough of Red Bank in the County of Monmouth, New Jersey is authorized: (a) to undertake various renovations, alterations, improvements and upgrades at the Red Bank Middle School and Red Bank Primary School, including acquisition and installation of fixtures, equipment and sitework; (b) to appropriate $6,750,000 for such purposes; and (c) to issue bonds of the school district to finance project in the principal amount of $6,750,000.

The final eligible costs of the projects approved by the Commissioner of Education are $6,750,000. This project includes $0 for school facility construction elements in addition to the facilities efficiency standards developed by the Commissioner of Education or not otherwise eligible for State support pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:7G-5(g). The State debt service aid percentage will equal 40% of the annual debt service due with respect to the final eligible costs of the project. The Board of Education is authorized to transfer funds between the projects approved at this election.

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