BELMAR, NJ — Belmar voters yesterday overwhelmingly approved a special referendum to fund $9.7 million in major improvements to Belmar Elementary School.

Nearly 68 percent of residents voted in favor of the bond issue, which calls for significant upgrades to the 110-year-old school's HVAC system and auditorium, as well as flooring and window replacements. The unofficial vote tally stood at 542 voting in favor to 261 voting against, representing 18 percent of Belmar voters and breaking down as follows:

  • District 1: 54 vs. 25
  • District 2: 98 vs. 35
  • District 3: 122 vs. 43
  • District 4: 86 vs. 41
  • District 5: 56 vs. 30
  • Mail-in ballots: 127 vs. 87

With the approval, 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 will rise about $5 a month for a borough resident with a home assessed at nearly $555,000.

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"I am honored to live in this wonderful little town with a big heart. Belmar decided that its children are worth it," said school board member Aileen Byrne-Fahy. "The outreach and hard work it took to educate folks came from so many community members, like Claire Deicke, Matt Sharin, Carol Turano, and especially Gina Collucci and Lisa Miller. Our Superintendent David Hallman worked constantly on this. I'm proud to say our school has a great leader. I hope the yes voters come and enjoy our new auditorium as soon as it's finished."

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

  • $6.6 million in HVAC improvements, 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 pre-K to eighth-grade school. School officials decided it was time to tackle the remaining larger projects, particularly since the state agreed to reimburse the district nearly $3.9 million of the total $9.7 million over 20 years. 

The auditorium renovations are slated for June through October 2020, with the HVAC and other related work being done from June through October 2021.


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