WARREN, NJ - The voters of the Watchung Hills sending districts will be asked to vote on a special election referendum to renovate the media center and install electrical upgrades at the polls on September 24.
The Watchung Hills Board of Education voted at the last meeting to place the question on the ballot.
The Board is seeking to undertake a school facilities project consisting of renovations and upgrades to the Media Center and electrical upgrades including the replacement of electrical panels and distribution systems.
The projects will be undertaken at a cost not to exceed $3,857,000 which will be funded through the issuance of a short term bond/note.
The Board will receive State aid for each of the projects in the form of debt service aid anticipated to be up to 40% of total project costs. This State aid reduces the taxpayers’ share of each of the projects to approximately 60% of the total project cost. Such State funding will only be available if the proposal passes.
The Board expects to fund its local share of debt service with monies that will be available in the Capital Reserve Fund and in the Debt Service Fund. Therefore, it is anticipated that no new tax dollars will be raised to pay for the projects.
Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett said:
On September 24, 2019, you will be asked to vote on a referendum to fund necessary electrical upgrades as well as a 21st Century Media Center. I would like to take this opportunity to provide you with information on the upcoming referendum, which will have no impact financially on taxpayers.
The selection of these projects from our long range facilities plan to include in the referendum is not arbitrary. The Board and administration participated in a thoughtful process to prioritize our list of projects in terms of safety, educational impact, and affordability. The electrical panel upgrades are necessary to replace outdated operational systems with upgraded systems for increased safety. The redesign and renovation of our Media Center is an outgrowth of our 5-Year Strategic Plan through which we have established a district goal to “Integrate creative, innovative, and interdisciplinary learning throughout the district to empower and inspire students to succeed in a changing global community.”
The ways in which our students use our Media Center have evolved not only due to the increased access to and integration of technology in learning, but also due to the expanded opportunities for collaboration with their peers to pursue innovative learning opportunities beyond the classroom, including such endeavors as TEDx, LaunchX, and virtual learning. The upgrade to the Media Center will expand and redesign the existing space, incorporating areas for collaboration, independent study, large group instruction, experiential learning, and enhanced use of technology, including video production and virtual reality.
By passing the referendum for these projects, the State of New Jersey will reimburse the Watchung Hills Regional High School District up to 40% of the cost of the project. The savings will go back into capital reserve for future projects without burdening taxpayers in the future.
I would like to reiterate that this bond referendum has no impact financially on taxpayers. An affirmative vote will save the district up to 40% of the total cost of the project. The Board expects to fund the remaining local share (approximately 60%) of the project using our own capital reserve funds. Should the referendum not pass, we will look to scale back the Media Center project to what we are able to fund with our allotted capital reserve without the State of New Jersey’s reimbursement via debt service aid.
For additional information, visit www.whrhs.org. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact School Business Administrator, Timothy Stys, at 908-647-4800, ext. 4850, or my office at 908-647-4800, ext. 4890.
Thank you for your attention to this significant financial issue impacting the Watchung Hills Regional High School District.
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