Haddonfield voters approve Haddonfield Public Schools bond referendum

After a long and controversial road, Haddonfield residents approved all three parts of the Haddonfield Public Schools bond referendum in a special election on Tuesday, March 8. According to the unofficial results, Question 1 was passed by 63 percent of the voters, Question 2 was passed by 61 percent of the voters, and Question 3 was passed by 57 percent of the voters.

“We are extremely pleased that all the proposals passed and very much appreciate the support of the entire community. This has been a long quest, involving years of analysis and input, and it’s great that the time has finally come to move forward. We truly believe that this will ensure the safety and structural strength of our school buildings for many years to come,” Superintendent Dr. Richard Perry said.

The district originally decided it needed to go out for a bond referendum because of much-needed building repairs, HVAC updates, special systems upgrades and accessibility and code compliance issues.

Haddonfield’s Board of Education has worked for more than a year to conduct an expert review of the district’s buildings — going beyond the required visual inspections to include looking inside walls, roofs and crawl spaces. Internal assessments, repairs and upgrades were not made before then due to a lack of funding to open the buildings and look at them internally, according to Perry. That in-depth inspection showed structural risks, water leakage, inefficient utilities and other ways the buildings needed prompt attention.

The proposed bond referendum numbers and projects changed a number of times, totaling an estimated cost of $51.2 million at one point.

It was finally decided in January that a bond referendum totaling an estimated $35.3 million would be the final number proposed to citizens. The estimated yearly tax impact for the 2015 average assessed home value of $484,226 would be $300.49.

The bond was split into three questions.

Question 1 addressed critical needs the district said had to be addressed immediately, including steel, brick and mortar components that keep the buildings standing, the roofs from leaking, and the doors and windows functioning. Also included were the replacement of inefficient and failing HVAC systems and replacement of outdated communications systems essential for security.

The total cost of Q1 is estimated at $30.2 million, with a cost of $253.37 for the average homeowner per year.

Previously called Q2A, Q2 addressed air-conditioning key parts of each school, and Building Automation System Control to operate utilities with modern efficiency. The total cost of Q2 is estimated at $3.7 million, with a cost of $30.70 per year for the average homeowner.

Previously called Q2B, Q3 addressed critical repairs at the high school stadium and track. Without those restorations, use of the stadium and track will be significantly restricted, officials said. The total cost of Q3 is estimated at $1.4 million, with an average impact of $16.43 per year.

These numbers are based on a 25-year bond with an interest rate of 3.53 percent.

The tally of the votes had 2,264 voters saying “yes” and 1,303 saying “no” for Q1; 2,148 voters saying “yes” and 1,393 saying “no” for Q2; and 2,026 voters saying “yes” and 1,510 saying “no” for Q3.

The results can be found at the borough’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/Borough.of.Haddonfield/?fref=nf.

“Everyone in the community deserves a ‘job well done’ in managing, putting together and supporting resolutions for the critical needs of the school district. Those who opposed the bond measure as well deserve thanks. These groups made us more cognizant of our overall process and offered much valuable insight,” Perry said.

According to Perry, the next steps will include enlisting the help of a construction manager who will act on behalf of the BOE in overseeing the construction projects, and an architect will also develop the specifications for the projects and get approval from the DOE. After that, the district will go out for bids for the projects, having to award to the lowest qualified bidder. The construction manager will then work with the architect and construction firm to develop specific timelines for completing the projects. The hope is, after all the appropriate approvals, to begin some of the work this summer, Perry said.

The BOE also will still be moving ahead on developing a community-based advisory committee for the maintenance and repair of public school facilities and hiring a professional engineer who will inspect the school buildings on a weekly basis.

“The support in the community is amazing and the expertise of those in town is also inspiring. We are looking forward to working with all the various groups within the community as we move forward,” Perry said.