Letters

Best Option

Sep 13, 2017

To the Editor:

In 2015, after several years of hearing stories, many of them contradictory, about the consolidation of the two local elementary schools, the Harvey Cedars Taxpayers Association (HCTA) decided to send a representative to the board of education meetings to try to understand the situation. Several of the HCTA trustees attended the meetings, though I predominately was the attendee.

I also read many of the professional reports and have compiled a summary of the history of the consolidation plan, which can be viewed on our website, harveycedarstax.org. I should add that I am a retired structural engineer and paid particular interest to the structural engineer’s report on the condition of the LBI School in Ship Bottom.

I have come away from the board meetings convinced that the current board members are a dedicated group of individuals who want to do what is best for the students and the taxpayers of five communities on LBI that are part of the district. I am convinced that consolidation is in the best interest of the students. I am persuaded in part because the two administrators and the teachers have endorsed the consolidation as being the best option for the students. This is in spite of the fact that some of them will lose jobs after the consolidation.

Though two mayors of the five communities have strongly voiced opposition to consolidation, board members representing those communities have voted in favor of consolidation. Funding the improvements and additions to the E.J. School is prudent in the long run because the cost will be static for the 20-year life of the bonds, but the savings will escalate due to inflation over that period of time.

The estimated annual cost of the referendum to an average home assessed at $600,000 will be $55 before considering: 1) reductions from the sale of the LBI School, 2) the annual savings in operating cost from consolidation ($350,000 to $450,000) and 3) state aid from New Jersey ($1.6 million).

I also have concerns that the LBI School in Ship Bottom has a potential for unseen structural problems. The structural engineer’s report shows a floor structure that is so badly deteriorated that the engineer required the floor to be temporarily shored before allowing students to occupy the building. That shoring has to be certified annually to continue to allow occupancy.

The engineer also found piles in the 50-year-old building that are failing. This finding prompted me to write a letter to the board recommending that they do not put any money into the repair of the building without getting a letter from the structural engineer stating that he has seen all the piles and the only ones that are failing are the ones in his report.

The Harvey Cedars Taxpayers Association fully supports the school administrators and the teachers’ recommendation and the board of education’s decision to consolidate to one school, on the E.J. School site, which will be prudent for the district’s taxpayers and, more importantly, maintain an exceptional school district for the education of our students.

James Loudon, trustee

Harvey Cedars Taxpayers Assn.

 

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