Education

Spring Garden Town Hall Provides Many Answers to Proposed School Construction Questions

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Superintendent of Schools Dr. Julie Glazer Credits: John Lee / TAPinto Nutley
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President Danny Carnicella Credits: John Lee / TAPinto Nutley
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NUTLEY, NJ - More than a dozen citizens asked questions at the February 2 Nutley schools town hall at Spring Garden School.Their questions provided two hours of feedback on the proposed construction plans presented.

What is the order of the construction projects?

Architect Joe DiCara: ‘The plan is that all projects will start at the same time. The Middle School will take the longest to complete. Because construction at Yantacaw and Washington will be completed sooner, they will have the extra capacity during middle school construction before moving moving the sixth graders to the middle school..’

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The anticipated order of completion: Washington, Yantacaw, High School and finally the Middle School. The anticipated start date is late Spring 2018 with completion of the Middle School in 2020.

Why aren’t we looking at building new buildings instead of patching old buildings? Instead of putting ‘band-aids’ on on old buildings, it was recommended that the district: Build a new high school, put the 4-6 graders in the existing high school; additions to our best two elementary schools and put all K-3 there and sell the other three school buildings. Leave the middle school alone. Concern was expressed that in five years the schools not being addressed in this referendum might need renovations. Carnicella stated that building new schools comes with the challenge of costs higher than the ones being looked at.

What is the plan for the next 2 years? Superintendent Julie Glazer replied: ‘From an overcrowding standpoint the next two years will be a challenge. We are already in the budget process and looking at our sections for next year. It is a constant balancing act. Based on the information available, Glazer also stated that if we do not act, ‘property values may go down more than taxes will go up.’

What is the plan for district offices? School board administrative offices will remain in the basement of the Middle School with no renovations.

What is the median tax increase? Nutley uses Average Assessed Value - currently $316.427.00. Estimated tax impact Year One would be $183.50 per household. For every $100 in value, there would be an 11.5 cent tax impact. Re: Interest rates Yeamans said, ‘We will not know the exact interest rates until we go to bond.’

[Note: from the District Q&A: Q: What is the cost to the Nutley homeowner/taxpayer for all the proposed work in the concept drawings? A: Based on a $65 million project and the average assessed home value of $316,427, the annual tax impact is $367. The projection equates to $0.1159 per $100 of assessed home value. In order to reduce the tax impact, the district intends to split the bond issuance into two bond sales. This reduces the impact to approximately $183.50.

The projection is based on an anticipated bond issue date of 3/15/18; a projected interest rate of 4.31%; a 25-year

maturity schedule; and a 10% debt service from the state. 

What are the projected cost of personnel and what impact will this have on taxes? Glazer responded:‘The District does a five year budget projection including personnel costs. The 6th grade staff will travel to the middle school. In 2010 a 2% cap was mandated by the state of NJ for municipalities and boards of education. There are exceptions of which towns can take advantage. The Board of Education decision has continually been to stay within the 2%.  There is no additional personnel cost associated with this referendum because we cannot go beyond that 2%. We are constrained. We don’t have the benefit of exclusions. ’  

How much will we receive in State Aid? ‘Business Administrator Yeamans responded: We will not know our state aid number until the final plans. That number can be anywhere from 10-20%’.

Voiced Concerns and Responses

“I am extremely concerned with the town’s short and long term plans and the costs associated. We would not be in this predicament if we had long term strategic planning by our elected Board of Commissioners and Board of Education, taking into consideration scenarios that come into play with growing towns. Why are we so behind?”

Marvel Blanco, Nutley Homeowner

Bond Referendum:  “The best chance of passing is to do the middle school. The easiest way to get the people to come together in the town is to give them solutions to the immediate problem.” Nutley Taxpayer

Cost of Construction: Glazer commented that the board ‘peeled back, peeled back…’ to get to the $66.5M figure from the original $96M. They ‘left no rock uncovered’ in looking at all options within the $66.5M referendum number.

Demographers Report: A resident commented that data on the district website includes a 2007 enrollment of 4036 students enrolled in the district and in 2016 enrollment was 4023 students for a growth rate 0.29%. The demographers report shows a growth rate of 12.5%. According to Glazer, the demographers report from 4 years ago to the current report was accurate within 2 students.

The district will look at the demographers report to identify ‘un-housed students’ and petition the state to identify benefits to offset some of the approved referendum amount.

Additions vs. New Construction:   Architect DiCara referenced the High School addition plans. “We designed the spaces for additional physical education/multi-use areas. In design we never know what is going to happen 20 years from now so we created plans with flexibility for future use.”

Re-Districting: Glazer informed. ‘Moderate or total school redistricting with bussing does not solve the problem of lack of academic space.’ Yeamans said. “There is a lot more to it than saying, ‘let’s buy a bus’.

Outstanding Debt: Nutley District’s current Bond Rating is A1. In response to a comment on our current outstanding debt, Karen Yeamans said. ‘We checked to make sure we could carry this debt. This is an estimate as to what can be predicted at this point in time. In terms of our existing debt, this board has been diligent. When the interest rate market was very low, we refinanced the outstanding debt at two different stages.'

Change Orders: Responding to the possibility of construction cost overruns, Yeamans said. ‘By law, we have to stay within that [approved] budget that the taxpayers are authorizing the amount that we can borrow. I have no place to go to get extra money. All work has to be done within $66.5M. We don’t have an option of it becoming $67M.’

“We have money built in for things like change orders.” Carnicella said. The architects will do due diligence on what to expect as they go through the process. The district is required by law to put in ‘contingencies’ to offset possible unforeseen costs. DiCara said. We add minimum of 10% into the budget for contingencies.

Removal of Hazardous Materials: DiCara said that asbestos is identified by the District's Environmental consultant and a ‘certain amount of money is budgeted for asbestos removal.’ Removal of hazardous materials like asbestos is done when the building is not occupied. Or if they are occupied, that program may have to be held at another school while the work is done. These things are worked out with the construction management firm that works directly for the district according to DiCara. “They are another pair of eyes. They have valuable input in terms of we need to do first, second, third.” he said.

[Note: Some Nutley citizens may recall that during the late 60’s early 70’s, while work was done at Nutley High, students attended classes at St Vincent’s behind the high school.]   

Roche and Apartments: A homeowner with no children in the school system said. “I would like for our town leaders the BOC, Planning and Zoning boards to work as hard as they can to make sure there are no apartments built on the property at Roche. From what I understand, we are going to get the apartments on the Nutley side and Clifton is going to get the businesses. This will have our public schools bursting at the seams even more. I do hope that our BOC, Planning and Zoning boards put businesses on our side.” There was no response from the the BOE or Township board members that were present.

[Note: According to the Township Clerk’s office, the Board of Commissioners is invited to the February 15 Joint meeting of the Planning and Zoning Boards to discuss ‘land use and land use policy’. The BOE is also scheduled to give a presentation at that meeting.]

General Contractors and the Bidding Process: Architect DiCara said that the Construction Manager, once hired, would identify certain general contractors that they would like to bid on the jobs.  Pres. Carnicella explained that at this point there is no construction manager.

[Note: NJ State Process for Hiring Contractors:  According to the NJ Educational Facilities Construction and Financing Act, the state contractor prequalification process includes a requirement that the contractor proposing to submit bids on a school facilities project submit a statement under oath on a form designated by the authority. The form fully describes and establishes the financial ability, responsibility, plant and equipment, organization, ownership, relationships and prior experience of the prospective bidder and any other pertinent and material facts as may be deemed necessary by the authority. Link: http://www.state.nj.us/education/facilities/laws/act_summ.shtml]

Timeline: “Is this the final proposal?” “Absolutely not.” Glazer explained that right now everything is concept. There will be a closed session of the BOE on Feb 13th. At the meeting, the Board and architects will look at all input; comments, concerns, questions, emailed to the district and from the five Town Hall forums. 

The architects will then refine some of the plans and on February 27, the Board will present to the public ‘this is what we are considering and this is what it will cost’. If the decision is made to go forward with the referendum, in March and April, the Board and architects will: Refine the plans; work with the state on square footage and debt service numbers; work with the Bond Attorney; schedule the election date… The soonest the Referendum question can be put on a ballot is September 2017.  [Note: In the event that referendums do not pass after two votes, the state can intervene and allow the district to build.]

Send your questions, comments, ideas and feedback to ideasandfeedback@nutleyschools.org.

Video of the entire Town Hall meeting can be viewed here:

 

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