Shamong schools give breakdown of bond referendum project costs, launch new website

The Shamong Board of Education last week provided a breakdown of costs for the $5.39 million bond referendum projects.

The school district is going out for referendum in March as a number of its facilities are in need of upgrading or renovating. The bond referendum projects include upgrades to classroom, gym and cafetorium air-conditioning at Indian Mills Memorial School; telephone, messaging, clock, PA and mass notification system upgrades for both schools; generator installation and related standby power work for both schools; parking lot, walk and curb restoration at IMMS; well pit upgrades for IMMS; upgrades and replacements of the electrical mains on the roof at Indian Mills School; and ATC upgrades to digital controls at both schools.

The biggest ticket items include climate controlling all classrooms, projected at $1.2 million; soft costs, such as contingency, architect fees, surveys, legal and bonding at $980,000; parking lot, walk and curb restoration at $900,000; and cafetorium HVAC upgrades including stage at $680,000. For a full breakdown of the projected costs, a powerpoint is available at the school district website.

All of the bond referendum projects, only the parking lot, walk and curb restoration are not eligible for state aid. Projected state aid would be $1.7 million.

If voters approve the bond referendum, the average Shamong homeowner, with a home valued at $308,080, would pay an additional $156.47 per year in K-8 school taxes.

The school district is looking into a bond referendum now because the state will pay up to 40 percent of allowable costs associated with improvements for buildings and grounds; interest rates are historically low, and there are indications that interest rates may increase moving forward; a large chunk of the school’s debt will be paid off by May 2018; and construction costs are projected to increase.

On this year’s school tax bill, the average Shamong homeowner paid $385.47 toward school district debt. While that portion of the average tax bill would increase to $465.78 if the bond referendum passes, district officials said old debt from 2003 will simultaneously be paid off that year, dropping the debt portion of a resident’s school tax bill to $224.65 by 2019.

According to business administrator Laura Archer, the school district is looking into offsetting the increase to the average taxpayer for the 2018 year for the debt portion of residents’ tax bills so there is not that additional burden.

“This is why it is a great time to do these projects, because it will not have a great impact on taxpayers,” Archer said.

If the projects come in under budget, the district can either increase the scope of the projects, such as upgrading materials, or return that money to the taxpayers.

The vote on the bond referendum will take place at the Indian Mills Memorial School on March 14.

The new district website that launched Dec. 13 features a section of additional information on the bond referendum. How to register to vote, all powerpoints, frequently asked questions and more on the bond referendum can be found by visiting Shamongschools.org.

In other news:

Shamong Township Schools recently received two awards from the Burlington County Insurance Pool Joint Insurance Fund. A majority of Burlington County school districts are a part of the JIF, as it provides insurance for a large number of districts at a lower rate. Each year, the Burlington County JIF has an annual dinner presenting awards to districts for different criteria.

The district won the Safety District of the Year Award. The award is given to districts that meet various safety obligations, including ensuring safety of staff and students, attending training and a number of meetings. For the award, the district received $8,500. Members of the Safety Committee who helped to achieve the award include Todd Hall, Jennifer Simpson, Heather Cosper, Tony Scardino, Tim Henry, Jennifer Babbitt, Bill Simons and Jackie Johnson.

Also, Karen Clementi of the Indian Mills Elementary School won the Safety Star Award in the district size category for saving a choking child using the Heimlich maneuver.

“It was a really nice honor (to win the Safety District of the Year Award) on top of one of our staff members winning the Safety Star Award,” Archer said.