Bob Garrison from Garrison Architects opened the May 24 Cherry Hill board of education meeting with an update on an upcoming bond referendum tentatively scheduled for Oct. 4.
His presentation covered four main points: how much the district could borrow for the bond, ways to reduce the scope of the referendum, the potential impact on taxpayers and the referendum’s extended timeline.
Because the district got $32 million less than it had anticipated, financial advisor Sherry Tracey explained, it can choose between borrowing debt capacity from the township or reducing the number of projects. To accommodate, the board reviewed those projects, parts of which have already been completed, such as new furniture for the elementary-school media centers or upgraded fire alarms at the Malberg building.
Other projects have gone by the wayside because they could be funded through other means, such as the capital reserve fund. Garrison noted that those were less eligible for debt service aid and could be funded in other ways. The most notable is the creation or expansion of five all-purpose rooms at the elementary-school level, except at Johnson Elementary.
In a straw poll, it was decided that the board would reduce the number of projects to meet the debt capacity limit during its next meeting in June.
“(Johnson’s all-purpose room) APR is inadequate, undersized … PE and food service aren’t effectively conducted there, so the recommendation is to leave Johnson in the program,” Garrison said, “but take the other APRs out and save the bulk of what the reduction requires.”
He later clarified that renovations to existing APRs are not being considered for removal, GOonly the new construction.
The estimated tax impact of district spending on the average assessed home value of $225,473 would be $394.80 a year. The next steps for the board include reviewing reductions and adopting the bond questions.
Superintendent Dr. Joseph Meloche used his meeting remarks to address the number of students who continue to vocally oppose teacher transfers this year. Since the moves were announced in mid-April, there have been online petitions, a student rally and many instances of public dissent.
Because the transfers are a personnel issue, Meloche acknowledged that legally, the board is limited by what it can say on the issue.
“When we make personnel decisions, and when staff members are moved, it’s based on looking at what the needs are of the students and what’s the best that we could possibly do as a district to meet those needs,” he noted, adding that while he appreciated the respectful protests, it doesn’t mean the transfer decisions will change.
“Everybody gets to express (their perspectives), [but] sometimes decisions are made that not everybody is going to agree with,” Meloche explained.
He also addressed concerns regarding the New Jersey updated health standards.
“When our curriculum is developed, we use the practitioners, the experts including our teachers and our nurses who work with children of specific ages on a daily basis,” he explained. “They’re the ones who worked to develop the curriculum based on what the standards are.”
In other news, the board also recognized a number of student athletes from East and West, including in boys basketball and girls wrestling.
The board will meet again on June 7 at 5:30 p.m. for committee meetings, and again on June 14 at 6:30 p.m., for a regular session.