Home Pinelands News Tabernacle district hosts session on bond referendum

Tabernacle district hosts session on bond referendum

Approval by voters would unlock state funds for school projects

A vote on Election Day Nov. 8 will determine how to finance projects in the Tabernacle school district. Architect William “Ted” Hopkins addresses potential plans during a recent meeting on the district’s proposed bond referendum.

The Tabernacle Township School District hosted a formal information session on Oct. 11 about a bond referendum that will be on the ballot on election day, Nov. 8.

According to district officials, the cost of the referendum’s proposed projects is $12.6 million. Upon approval, the state would be able to cover up to 40 percent of that, or about $5 million. 

Projects include facility upgrades — such as a roof replacement at Kenneth R. Olson Middle School and potential roof repairs at Tabernacle Elementary School — as well as HVAC improvements and new security and fire-alarm systems.

As state funding has dwindled in recent years, school superintendent and Olson Principal Shaun Banin said during a video presentation at the start of the meeting that the referendum is the best way for the district to ensure necessary upgrades are done quickly and with the least  tax impact on residents. 

“After having our state funding slashed nearly in half, bond borrowing is a way for our district to tap into a different line of state funding,” he explained. “This is money Tabernacle residents have already paid through state taxes, which goes into a special pot of money to pay for projects tied to educational needs.

“While taxpayers across the state pay into this fund, money from it can only be shared with districts where voters approve a bond referendum.”

The referendum would require all projects to be completed within two years of its approval. All listed projects, Banin indicated, are eligible for state funding though the referendum, and debt in the measure would be paid over a 20-year period. 

With existing debt from a recent bond referendum expected to be paid off after 2025 –  and any new debt from the proposed referendum to be added in 2024 – township residents with the average assessed home value of $266,592 would see an increase in taxes in both 2024 and 2025, before a tax decrease in 2026 for the remainder of the referendums.

“If voters approve the Nov. 8 bond referendum, the owner of a home assessed in Tabernacle Township’s average would see an initial increase before seeing a tax decrease to less than what they are paying now,” Banin said. “This is because the old debt and new debt briefly overlap, but once that old debt is paid off, residents will be paying $17 a year less than what they are paying now.” 

According to school district figures, the anticipated yearly tax impact on residents over the next five years would be as follows: $259.05 in 2022, $152.86 in 2023, $301.85 in 2024, $388.34 in 2025 and $247.81 in 2026. 

According to school officials – as well as district architect FVHD of Trenton and its principal, William  Hopkins – proposed projects will need to be completed in the coming years, regardless of a referendum vote. 

“I’ve done the math; it is 40 percent more expensive to do a single piece at a time as opposed to multiple at a time.” Hopkins pointed out. ““It’s not that these projects go away; (the school district) has to do them. It’s just that they can do them with support from the state, or (the district) will end up spending 40 percent more if you hadn’t gone through the referendum process.” 

For more information on the proposed referendum, visit vote.tabschools.org.

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