BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ -- Borrowing money, even in the short term, to finance an addition to Ridge High School might not be necessary, says the school district business administrator.

Instead, Bernards Township should be able to finance a proposed $6.7 million cafeteria expansion and four-classroom addition through use of its capital reserve fund, the Board of Education heard on Monday, Aug. 26.

In his annual update of the long-term facilities plan, Business Administrator Rod McLaughlin said 10 projects totaling $14.8 million are in process or pending. Besides the high school addition, which appeared on the list last year, there have been no significant changes. He was reporting primarily on the progress of projects.

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The list of 154 projects in the capital plan includes heating/cooling systems, security upgrades and athletic facilities.

Work in progress or pending are replacing exterior doors’ hardware for security purposes, a roof replacement at Oak Street School, a science laboratory upgrade and heating/cooling/ventilation work at William Annin School, dozens of masonry repairs on district properties, and an estimated $1 million in drainage work around high school sports fields.

Examples of past capital items are new artificial turf for Lee Field at Ridge High School in the summer of 2015, and the replacement of the running track two years later. The girls’ varsity softball field was renovated in the summer of 2016.

McLaughlin said the board “has been very proactive in funding reserves that allows to do (work) without an additional tax burden.”

In June the board transferred $500,000 into the capital reserve. The amount varies from year to year based on district needs and the balance sheet at the end of the school year from operational savings and unanticipated revenues.

Township school leaders plan to decide by mid-winter whether to proceed with the café-classroom addition, which is key to allowing the school to switch the way it operates its class day.

The addition on the end of the 700 wing would include ground-floor space to cook and serve food, with four classrooms and a small-group room on a floor above.

Superintendent Nick Markarian in July said the budget estimate, including construction and soft costs (architect, engineer, contingency, permits), is $6.8 million. He projected it would be paid for by $5.15 million in money put aside for capital projects and by borrowing on a five-year note for $1.65 million, he said.

Under those figures, it would mean an increase in the annual school budget of $182,000 to $282,000 per year, he said.

Now, the financial outlook looks like the district can pay for the addition without borrowing, McLaughlin said.

In June the Board of Education authorized an architect to draft plans and design bid documents for the addition. The board may vote on the go-ahead in mid-winter in order to build the wing for use in the fall of 2021.

The district is looking for ways to add rooms to be able to change the school-day schedule to go with fewer, but longer, class periods per day. Classes would be rotated so students wouldn’t take every subject every day.

A revised class-period schedule would mean students would eat lunch at the same time, something not now possible.