Tuckerton Elementary School Referendum Passes
Tuckerton Elementary Superintendent Janet Gangemi was very pleased with the passage of the $3.3 million bond referendum that will create a new off-street circular drive for drop-off and pickup of children by their parents, new security measures at the main entrance, two new elevators for handicapped access and a complete STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) lab and some restructuring of offices.
Because the school is contributing $250,000 from its capital reserve account and the state is contributing 43.4 percent of the cost in debt service aid, the figure that taxpayers will be responsible for is closer to $2,099,395, to be paid off in 20 years. The impact to the average property tax in Tuckerton will mean an increase of $68 a year or less than $6 a month.
Election results including mail-in ballots showed that 391 borough residents voted in the special Sept. 27 election or just 17 percent of registered voters, and the vote was close: 206 voters were for the bonding and 185 voted no.
“Actually, I’ve heard from past referendums in Tuckerton that the turnout was a pretty good one,” said Gangemi on Monday. “I’m not happy how close it was, but I am so thankful for those who voted yes, and those who came to the various workshops held on the referendum.”
Gangemi held six public information meetings on the referendum, sent a brochure home to parents and also posted her presentation on the school’s website. In addition, the Ocean County Board of Elections sent an official ballot out about the election.
“It was publicized quite a bit,” she said.
Now that the referendum is passed, the next step is to begin the “foundational part of the improvements,” having the land surveyed and getting permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection for the drainage improvements for the reconfiguration of the existing parking lot and playground. “We hope to go out to bid on the various projects in March and start work in June. We hope to have the various projects substantially finished before the new school year starts.”
Because the projects are not dependent on each other for completion, they can all be under construction at the same time.
“With the exception of the parking lot (and circular drive), everything else could go on (during the 2017-18 school year) until they are finished without impacting the students,” said Gangemi.
“I’m very happy with the parental support. It was overwhelmingly positive for the safety and security of the students and for a better way of channeling visitors into the school – and they are always for better educational opportunities for the children,” she, referencing the STEAM lab. “We’re very proud of how we put the proposal together utilizing the space we have in the school for the lab. It was a tight proposal, not onerous on the taxpayers.”
Gangemi said the school would soon learn if it has been successful in obtaining the grants applied for: an OceanFirst grant of $10,000 will be announced Oct. 16; the Safe Roads to School grant applied for with the borough in early November, and the KaBoom community built playground $15,000 grant will be announced in late November.
— Pat Johnson