If Approved, State Department of Education to Pick Up 40% of Tab

BELMAR, NJ — Belmar voters will decide on Tuesday, March 10 whether to fund $9.7 million in major improvements to Belmar Elementary School in a special referendum election. Polls will be open from 2 to 8 p.m. at the Belmar Municipal Building, 601 Main Street.

If approved, the state Department of Education (DOE) will pick up 40 percent of the cost — a major reason why the Belmar Board of Education decided to put the capital improvement project to a public vote. As a result, school taxes would rise about $5 a month for a borough resident with a home assessed at nearly $555,000.

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If the referendum does not pass, the school district will be on the hook for the entire tab — resulting in a substantially higher school tax burden for residents — or be forced to proceed with projects piecemeal over a longer period of time — and costing more in the long run, according to school officials.

Under the referendum, the state would reimburse the school district through annual debt service aid for four major projects:

  • $6.6 million in HVAC improvements to improve air quality, including installing all new classroom ventilators and a control system, and upgrading the electrical system.
  • $1.5 million in upgrades to the auditorium, including new seating, flooring, lighting and sound equipment, and a new a wheelchair lift to the stage to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
  • $1.1 million for replacing floors in all classrooms and hallways, building new stairway landings and removing asbestos.
  • $500,000 for replacing windows to improve energy efficiency.

In recent years, the school has made a variety of capital improvements to maintain building standards at the 110-year-old school. It is now time to tackle these remaining larger projects — and the timing couldn’t be better, according to school officials.

“I understand people are fed up with recent municipal tax increases and proposed changes to our town. I hope they don’t allow those feelings to influence their decision regarding our school," said board of education member Aileen Byrne-Fahy.  "Public institutions should be safe environments with climate control. It’s fiscally frugal to fix the areas of decay at once so that we receive the 40 percent state aid. Our problems won’t disappear, but the 40 percent aid will ... unless we vote yes. Let’s do it right.” 

In addition to receiving 40 percent back from the state — nearly $3.9 million of the total $9.7 million over 20 years — interest rates are low, the district is retiring debt from previous bond issues, and bundling all four projects will result in cost-savings across the entire timetable.

If approved, the auditorium renovations would be slated for June through October 2020, with the HVAC and other related work being done from June through October 2021.

The last school referendum for renovations to Belmar Elementary School was approved in 2003. Totaling $5.6 million, the state also provided 40 percent of the funding, bringing down the school district’s cost to $3.37 million at that time.

For more information on the referendum, click here for a full presentation.

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