Education

Summit Schools to Receive $330,000 More Than Anticipated in State Aid; Franklin Library, Lincoln-Hubbard Parking Lot Renovations Studied

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SUMMIT, NJ--Governor Chris Christie’s state budget plans will mean an additional $330,000 in state aid for Summit schools on top of the $1,195,000 in aid the city school district already anticipated in its budget, it was announced on Thursday.

At the board of education meeting, School Business Administrator Louis Pepe said the city district began planning its 2012-2013 budget with the hopes of receiving at least the same $1.2 million from the state it received during 2011-2012. However, he added, the word from Trenton is the state will restore about $300,000 in categorical aid to Summit’s schools.

Pepe cautioned, however, that the state may require the additional aid to be phased in over five years and his office is awaiting further clarification on that issue.

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He believes, however, with the additional aid the district will at least be able to restore $33,512 for transportation and $69,000 for security.

The additional aid, according to Pepe, could result in a reduction in the school property tax rate on the average Summit home, assessed at $410,000, from the $30 increase originally anticipated in the 2012-2013 spending plan to around $10.

On another matter, the board authorized payment of $6,800 to the EI Associates architectural firm to begin preliminary studies to determine what renovations are needed to bring the Franklin School Library into compliance with current codes and to make the space more usable.

Michael Wozny of EI said the library, part of a 1976 addition to the school, needed lower, movable bookshelves to comply with modern safety standards, an updated heating and ventilation system, addition of air conditioning, more flexible furniture and renovation of the restrooms in the addition.

The added flexibility, he said, would enable the accommodation of more students and probably due away with the need to crowd several functions into the 3,400 square foot space.

Dr. Sheila Cole, the school’s principal, said the library had been out of compliance for several years and Franklin was the only one of Summit’s schools without a library that met compliance standards.

The Parent-Teacher Organization has offered to raise funds to help defray part of the cost of the renovations.

Superintendent of Schools Nathan Parker said any plans for renovation of the library would not be affected by any addition that would be made to the school to meet increasing enrollment at the school.

The board voted on Thursday to approve $8,500 for a study by Ross Haber Associates, Inc. of Port Washington, NY designed to balance enrollment in the city’s elementary schools.

Parker said the results of this study would help determine whether the district will shift students from Franklin to other elementary schools in the city to meet the overcrowding at that school or whether the district will build an addition onto the school to relieve the overcrowding.

Pepe said the district has $850,000 remaining in its capital reserves and the estimated $450,000 for the Franklin addition could come out of the capital reserves.

On another renovation matter, Wozny outlined a proposal to meet parking and safety demands at the Lincoln-Hubbard School.

Among the options, he noted, were the creation of an additional 12 parking spaces near Crescent Drive or the creation of an additional 10 spaces off Woodland Avenue, after relocation of a retaining wall and generator.

Both he and school officials agreed the second option was the more desirable.

Additionally, the plans would include dealing with stormwater management issues on the school site, replacement of sidewalks and paving.

Pepe said the improvements, which would not affect the footprint of the area or current parking on McGregor Road, would cost the district about $284,000.

RODs grants also would pay for a portion of the project costs.

He also said the proposed renovations would not detract from the green areas around the school.

Lincoln-Hubbard parents and residents living near the school objected to plans that would have eliminated portions of the green area.

Residents at Thursday’s meeting asked why, if the library renovations at Franklin were thought to be crucial several years ago, that parking in another school was apparently given a priority.

Parker responded RODs grants could be used to pay for the Lincoln-Hubbard renovations, whereas the Franklin Library was not eligible for the grants.

He added, “The Lincoln-Hubbard situation is the greatest safety issue facing the entire district.”

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