SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Residents will take to the polls March 14 to cast their vote on the South Plainfield School District’s estimated $29.5 million referendum. In an effort to answer questions and provide the community with information on the proposed referendum, district officials are holding a series of public information meetings conducted by district officials are planned.
The next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2 in the South Plainfield Middle School Media Center. Those unable to attend can live stream the meeting as well as submit questions in real time through the district’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/spboe.org/)
The proposed referendum is comprised of two questions and passage would enable the district to conduct over 60 projects among its seven buildings as well as the Jost Athletic Complex.
“We are asking for the funding for a list of projects that the board [of education] has reviewed and decided, based on our recommendations, that have to be addressed,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Noreen Lishak said during the Jan. 31 referendum meeting held at Roosevelt Elementary School. “There are a lot of items that, unless they pass through the referendum, the district itself would really be in dire need in trying to fix if something were to happen.”
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 updated electrical panels as well as removal of asbestos, and the removal and replacement of paving, sidewalks, curbs and parking lots.
“Most of your buildings are 40, some even 50 years old, which means the items we are looking at replacing are original items that are also 40 and 50 years old,” said Dr. Lishak.
Also included in Question #1 is a new fire alarm system at Grant School; renovations to the science labs at both South Plainfield High School and South Plainfield Middle School; the construction of a new STEM lab at the high school; and new doors at the middle school.
“If the referendum does not past, at some point in the not too distant future, you are going to have replace these things… and we wouldn't be able to do it…Then, you would continue to see a lot of band aids, issues that would only be addressed in an emergency, or things being piecemealed," said the superintendent.
Additionally, Question #1 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.
“There are a number of items that we have in [the referendum] that, regardless of whether or not this referendum passes in March, it will not be very long before you are going to have to replace them,” said Dr. Lishak.
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.
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 – or around $9.5 million - of the final eligible project costs would be offset by aid.
“The State of New Jersey has agreed to pay 40-percent of this debt and I do not know how long that deal is going to last…” Interim Business Administrator James Damato said at Tuesday's meeting. “We are going to get a new governor soon and there are a lot of projects in the hopper. That’s just one of the reasons why the board said ‘let’s bring this to the public now.’ We don’t know what’s going to happen six months, a year down the road.”
Under the proposed $29.5 million referendum, said Damato, the estimated cost to taxpayers – based on a home with an average assessment of $122,000 – would be approximately $138 more a year over the 20-year loan, beginning in 2018. Additionally, former debt associated with the construction of the new Roosevelt School is set to expire in 2022.
The South Plainfield School District's referendum vote will be held Tuesday, March 14 with the polls open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Those who cannot get to the polls will be able to submit absentee ballots and sample ballot will be mailed to all registered voters prior to the date.
Additional public meetings are planned through the end of February as follows:
• Thursday, Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. – South Plainfield Middle School Media Center (live stream on Facebook)
• Monday, Feb. 6 at 7:30 p.m. – Jost Field House on Avon Avenue
• Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 6:30 p.m. – Franklin Elementary School
• Tuesday, Feb. 14 at 11 a.m. – South Plainfield Senior Center
• Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. – Knights of Columbus, 334 Hamilton Boulevard
• Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. South Plainfield High School Cafeteria
A complete list of projects and the estimated costs is available on the South Plainfield School District website (http://spboe.org/cms/lib3/NJ01001778/Centricity/Domain/4/Referendum%20Projects%20List.pdf) and on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/spboe.org).
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