Estimate at $17.6 Million for Ethel A. Jacobsen Elementary School Addition

Long Beach Island School Board Aiming for September Referendum
Feb 15, 2017

The most recent cost projection for a proposed addition to the Ethel A. Jacobsen Elementary School in Surf City is $17.6 million, as the Long Beach Island school board announced at its meeting earlier this month.

Six years ago the board voted to consolidate its two schools. The board plans to fund expansion of the E.J. School through a sale of the LBI Grade School in Ship Bottom and a referendum for the remaining amount.

Di Cara Rubino Architects, based in Wayne, is heading up the project, and has regularly provided estimates for the cost of the work based on referendum dates the board has targeted. According to board President James Donahower, $17.6 million is the “new number the architect gave us now that we’ve missed the March referendum and moved to September, his theory being that this delay will give time for building costs to go up.”

The estimate was $15.1 million at the time of the board’s submission to the state Department of Education.

“Personally, I think it's questionable,” Donahower said of the new, significantly higher projection. “Yes, costs might very well go up. But they might also stay put or go down. In any case, we will be discussing this at our next meeting with the architect, among other things.”

Should the referendum take place in September, Island taxpayers will be asked to vote on whether to financially support the E.J. expansion. (Beach Haven residents would not vote, as that borough has its own school.) As board Vice President Jennifer Bott has pointed out, though, the total cost – and tax impact – for the project would decrease after factoring in the grade school sale proceeds as well as debt service aid and single-site savings.

While a plan to possibly sell the LBI School to the borough of Ship Bottom had been considered, last month the board officially decided to abandon that possibility and instead sell the property to the highest bidder. “We did not get the support of resolutions from all five boroughs regarding the sale of the LBI property to Ship Bottom, so the board has decided (by consensus) to move on and away from that option,” Donahower explained at the time.

Ship Bottom, which does not want to see the grade school property become a housing development, offered last year to purchase the property for $4 million, and to keep the building and open space. When the board agreed to pursue a sale to the borough, it stipulated that the district’s five sending municipalities approve a resolution backing a referendum in connection to a sale at, and because of, a reduced purchase price for the borough. Most of the towns, but not all, followed through with a resolution.

The next meeting of the LBI Board of Education is Tuesday, Feb. 21. The board meets at 7 p.m. in the media center of the E.J. School, in Surf City.

—Juliet Kaszas-Hoch

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