Mt. Laurel voters approve $35.5 million referendum for Mt. Laurel Schools

The district will fund a full-day kindergarten program and a host of other capital improvements.

Full-day kindergarten and a host of other capital improvements are coming to Mt. Laurel Schools upon the success of this week’s $35.5 million referendum vote.

According to unofficial election figures released by Mt. Laurel Schools, voters took to the polls this Tuesday to approve the referendum by a vote of 2,552 for the referendum, versus 646 against the referendum.

With successful passage, the district plans to sell bonds later this year that would allow construction to facilitate the opening of a full-day kindergarten program in the district by the start of the 2019–2020 school year.

Plans include building four classrooms at Fleetwood Elementary School and three classrooms at Larchmont Elementary School, in addition to making alterations to space that already exists at the district’s other elementary schools.

“Mt. Laurel has long been known for its support of its schools,” Superintendent George Rafferty said. “That was proven this week at the polling places. Approval of this bond proposal will allow us to continue responsible stewardship of district schools and extend our kindergarten program to a full day for our youngest students. That additional time will benefit the educational success of all of Mt. Laurel’s incoming kindergartners.”

In addition to the improvements needed for full-day kindergarten, the district will also replace fire alarm systems, boilers and HVAC systems in all school buildings, which officials say have aged to the point where it is difficult to find replacement parts.

The district also plans to partially or fully replace the roofs at Countryside Elementary School, Fleetwood, Parkway Elementary School, Springville Elementary School and Hartford Upper Elementary School, which would allow an expansion of the district’s solar energy program.

According to the district, its engineer has estimated an annual energy savings of $194,000 due the new natural gas boilers and newer, more efficient HVAC motors and blowers, as well as the sale of renewable energy credits from new solar panel installations.

The referendum also included plans to provide additional door locks, cameras, screening devices and other security-related improvements at buildings in the district.

However, as the district frequently touted before this week’s vote, despite the $35.5 million price tag, the successful passage of the referendum will not cause an increase in school taxes.

According to district officials, the lack of a tax increase is directly related to the timing of the referendum — the district will soon pay off existing debt service, and the district has received approval from the state to receive about 40 percent state aid on more than $31 million of the referendum’s costs, resulting in a return to the district of almost $12.5 million.

In offering more detail about the district’s existing debt service payments, officials say the district will soon pay off debt service expenditures that were created in 2001 to build Springville Elementary School and expand/renovate Hartford and Harrington Middle School.

As the district pays off its existing debt service, any new costs resulting from the $35.5 million referendum will still be less than what the district currently pays, meaning school taxes collected for debt service will actually decrease.

Specifically, Mt. Laurel residents who own a home of the average assessed price of $237,600 are set to pay Mt. Laurel Schools approximately $153.18 in 2019 for the district’s pre-existing debt service tax.

Residents would have paid that figure regardless of the success or failure of this week’s referendum.

However, with the elimination of existing debt service payment, combined with the return in state-aid monies, the owner of that same home valued at the average-assessed price of $237,600 would start paying $97.87 in debt-service tax in 2021, which is $55.31 less than the 2019 payment.