Long Beach Island Board of Education Firms Up Referendum Questions

Special Election Sept. 26 for Taxpayers to Vote on $18 Million Project
May 31, 2017

A referendum on Sept. 26 will ask taxpayers of the Long Beach Island School District’s sending municipalities – Barnegat Light, Harvey Cedars, Long Beach Township, Ship Bottom and Surf City – to vote on two bond proposals, totaling $18,353,411, to expand and renovate the Ethel A. Jacobsen Elementary School. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Six years ago the board voted to consolidate the district’s two schools. The board’s objective, since then, has been to sell the LBI Grade School and put the proceeds of the sale toward enlarging the E.J. School, which would house all students following construction. In 2011, the LBI School was listed for sale, for $9.5 million, though the board later lowered the price.

Ship Bottom’s opposition to the sale of the grade school site for development led the borough, more recently, to work on a plan to purchase the property for $4 million. Had that plan come to fruition, the referendum would have asked the community to vote on whether to make up the difference in cost for the work on E.J. so that Ship Bottom could buy the school.

The borough intended to save the grade school building from demolition and prevent a housing development in its place – with embedded concerns about infrastructure strain and affordable housing – and utilize the site for borough and community purposes, while preserving the open space.

However, the board stipulated that Ship Bottom would “need the blessing of all five boroughs,” in the form of a resolution, to proceed with this plan, and all five boroughs did not offer this support.

The board now aims instead to sell the grade school property to the highest bidder. Since there is not a buyer at this time, the referendum will include two bond proposals that add up to the total cost of the project. Proceeds from any sale of the LBI School would reduce this cost, and therefore the burden on taxpayers.

For Bond Proposal 1 voters will decide if they want to authorize the school board: “(a) to provide for the construction of an addition consisting of classrooms, a gymnasium and offices to the Ethel A. Jacobsen Elementary School; (b) to acquire the necessary equipment and undertake any associated site work; (c) to appropriate $14,579,176 for such improvements; and (d) to issue bonds of the school district in the principal amount of $14,579,176.

“The final eligible costs of the improvements approved by the Commissioner of Education are $291,720. The proposed improvements include $3,569,280 for school construction elements in addition to the facilities efficiency standards developed by the Commissioner of Education or not otherwise eligible for state support pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:7G-5(g).

“Proceeds received by the Board of Education from the sale of the Long Beach Island Grade School shall be used to pay direct costs of the projects and to reduce the bond authorization or shall be transferred to the debt service fund to pay principal of obligations issues under this bond proposal. The state debt service aid percentage will equal 40 percent of the annual debt service due with respect to the final eligible costs of the project. The Board of Education is authorized to transfer funds among the projects approved at this special election.”

Bond Proposal 2 – which will only go into effect if Bond Proposal 1 is approved – would authorize the board: “(a) to undertake renovations, alterations and improvements to the Ethel A. Jacobsen Elementary School; (b) to acquire the necessary equipment and undertake any associated site work; (c) to appropriate $3,774,235 for such improvements; and (d) to issue bonds of the school district in the principal amount of $3,774,235.

“The final eligible costs of the improvements approved by the Commissioner of Education are $3,774,235. The proposed improvements include $0 for school construction elements in addition to the facilities efficiency standards.”

Proceeds from a sale of the LBI School would be utilized as stated following the first proposal.

As the referendum interpretive statement explains, “If both bond proposals are approved, the total cost of the improvements will be $18,353,411 and will be financed with school district bonds in the amount of $18,353,411.

“The final eligible cost of the improvements approved by the New Jersey Commissioner of Education for both bond proposals is $4,065,955. The proposed improvements include $3,569,280 for school construction elements in addition to the facilities efficiency standards.”

Board members Georgene Hartmann and Bonnie Picaro voted against the resolution to approve the referendum questions, but the majority of members voted in favor, and the resolution passed.

The next regular meeting of the LBI Board of Education is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 20, in the E.J. School media center. In addition, the board will hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. on June 1 for the purpose of personnel and attorney/client privilege.

For more information on consolidation, visit the school website at lbisd.schoolfusion.us.

— Juliet Kaszas-Hoch

juliet@thesandpaper.net

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