There was no vote taken on the 2015 bond referendum for Regular Operating District grants from the state to help with school improvements at the Haddonfield Board of Education meeting on Dec. 4.
After giving the public proper notice and cleaning up some errors in the calculation of the projects, the board then will make a vote to move the project along.
Haddonfield was approved for $17 million of state aid ROD grants, in which the state pays for about 40 percent of approved school improvement projects. The school district only plans to use approximately $4.5 million of the grants, so as to limit its expenses. These projects are paid over 15 or 20 years so there is less of a burden on the school district and taxpayers.
Since the last board meeting, there have been some changes made to the possible referendum in March. For the first two questions, some things were taken off and added. Also, originally there were three questions, however the third, asking for the high school’s stadium grandstand restoration, would not be covered by ROD grants. After reviewing the condition of the stadium, the board decided to remove the question and wait. There was also some discussion of raising the money using fundraisers.
In the 2015 bond referendum, there are two questions.
Question one is for improvements the schools should absolutely do, school board members said, including exterior renovations such as roof replacement, interior renovations such as waterproofing, building systems updates and boiler replacements or updates, and electrical construction.
“We narrowed it down to the things we thought needed immediate repair. Things we’ll have to improve anyways. We want to take advantage of this grant money,” Superintendent Richard Perry said.
In the report, the numbers were narrowed down to a total cost of $8.4 million with $3.3 million being paid for by the state. Perry said he and the board want to keep the burden at less than $100 for taxpayers. The local tax impact on an assessed home valued at $491,000 at 15 years would be about $98 more a year in school taxes. Over 20 years, it would be about $81 more a year.
The second question asks for HVAC improvements or updates. Board members said this would be a question that would end the debate of whether air conditioning was an important issue. If approved, HVAC improvement costs would be $3.1 million in total with the state paying for $1.2 million. The local tax impact over 15 years would be about $36 more a year per household, and over 20 years would be about $29 more a year.
“I think it is a positive measure. The school buildings were built during a time when there was no technology. It is a different type of educational environment,” Perry said.
Steve Becica of Becica Associates, the new architect put on the project, also came in to give more information on the improvements and answer questions.
The bond referendum caused a lot of heated debate, since specifics were asked for and were not able to be provided, and a few numbers were found to be incorrect. The board decided to wait on a vote about the bond referendum so information could be made available to the public and the corrections could be made to the questions. The board is having another meeting to make a decision on the bond referendum.
In other news:
• A recap of Haddonfield Memorial High School’s Spirit Week was given by members of the student council. Each grade was commended for all it accomplished for each day of the week as well as all they had done for their charities. All classes at HMHS raised money for charities that affect their grade, or someone in their grade personally. The seniors raised money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Unstoppable and JVDRS, a charity for juvenile diabetes; the junior class raised money for the Brooke Mulford Foundation; the sophomores raised money for Go 4 The Goal; and the freshman class raised money for Wynona House.
• The next meeting will be Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. at the HMHS Library.