SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – The South Plainfield Board of Education on Dec. 21, at its last meeting of 2016, unanimously approved moving forward with plans to seek an estimated $29.5 million referendum this spring.
Through the referendum, comprised of two questions set to go out to a public vote in March, the district intends to conduct over 60 projects among its seven buildings as well as Frank R. Jost Field.
“The proposed referendum is necessary to improve our district facilities and instruction programs. The district facilities are in need of equipment upgrades and replacements that just cannot be met through our annual general budget,” said Superintendent of South Plainfield Schools Dr. Noreen Lishak in an interview with TAPinto South Plainfield.
“The projects approved by the board for consideration in the referendum include upgrades and replacements of equipment while also addressing safety concerns,” she said.
According to James Damato, South Plainfield’s interim business administrator, the district anticipates receiving a state aid reimbursement of approximately 40-percent of the projects’ preliminary eligible costs. Based on the estimated $29.5 million bond, one-third – around $9.5 million - of the final eligible project costs would be offset by aid.
“The state has agreed to pay 40-percent of the eligible costs,” said Damato, noting that South Plainfield’s financial advisor advised the board of education that moving forward with the bond at this time would be in the district’s best interest because the state could cease future funding for capitol projects in all school districts.
“We know that Governor Christie stopped all public works projects over the summer; he could in theory stop school capitol project funding again in the future,” he said.
Under the the proposed $29.5 million referendum, the estimated cost to taxpayers – based on a home with an average assessment of $122,000 – would be around $134.84/year; South Plainfield taxpayers would see the first payment due in 2018 with former debt associated with the construction of Roosevelt School expiring in 2022.
In its final, proposed form the bond referendum will focus on two questions:
Question #1 will include instructional, safety and facilities projects, including but not limited to, new windows, flooring, roofs, security cameras, heating and ventilation systems, ADA compliant bathrooms, and electrical panels as well as removal of asbestos, and removal and replacement of paving, sidewalks, curbs and parking lots.
“Each year, the district continues to utilize funds to repair outdated and inefficient equipment,” said Dr. Lishak. “By replacing single-pane windows and upgrade heating and ventilation systems in the schools, the district would see a significant savings.”
Question #1 also includes a new fie alarm system at Grant School, renovations to the science labs at both the high school and middle school, and the construction of a new high school STEM lab along with new doors at the middle school.
Additionally, this question focuses on projects at the district’s Jost Field Athletic Complex, including a new synthetic track, a new field house with ADA complaint bathrooms, new visitor bleachers, and a new press box as well as renovated and refurbished home bleachers.
Question #2, which will be contingent upon the passage of Question #1, pertains specifically to the field at the Jost Athletic Complex and asks the public to approve the installation of a turf field.
According to Damato, a turf field would be available for use for back-to-back games by the district’s male and female athletes, including but not limited to, the district’s soccer, field hockey, and football teams along with high school marching band.
“Currently, the existing grass field can only accommodate weekly football games,” he said.
The bond will go out for public vote on Friday, March 17. Both Dr. Lishak and Damato will be meeting with community organizations and PTOs, beginning in early January and running through to the referendum date. The goal of these meetings is to inform the public about the referendum and the need for the projects that are includes. Additionally, videos highlighting the proposed projects will be posted on the South Plainfield School District website as well as in TAPinto South Plainfield.
“South Plainfield is a wonderful and involved community and I believe the residents understand the need for the proposed improvements to our facilities, as well as the opportunity to build a STEM lab at the high school. Additionally, we will be upgrading the science labs in both the middle school and high school, which haven't been upgraded in decades,” said Dr. Lishak.
“Many of these proposed projects should have been addressed years ago, however, annual budget constraints just didn't allow it, leaving the district in the position we are in today,” added the superintendent, noting that the South Plainfield School District can no longer ‘continue to Band-Aid the problems.’
“It is time to replace our outdated and inefficient equipment and upgrade our facilities. Now is the time to present the referendum to the community. Tax -free bond interest rates are low. In addition, the state has agreed to pay 40-percent of the cost,” said D. Lishak. “The South Plainfield community is a strong supporter of education and I believe the community will recognize the importance of supporting the referendum come March.”
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