Long Beach Island School District Prepares for September Referendum

Board of Education Focuses on Voter Registration and Communication
Jul 19, 2017

The Long Beach Island Consolidated School District has officially launched voter registration and communication efforts in preparation for a special election this fall. On Sept. 26, taxpayers in the district’s five sending municipalities – Barnegat Light, Harvey Cedars, Long Beach Township, Ship Bottom and Surf City – will be asked to vote on a two-question, $18.4 million bond referendum.

“A positive outcome of the vote will fund an addition and renovations to the Ethel A. Jacobsen Elementary School to accommodate all of the district’s approximately 230 students,” explained Laura Bishop, managing principal of Laura Bishop Communications. “The Long Beach Island Grade School, which also serves the district, will be closed.”

As Bishop also noted, a referendum communications committee – comprising teachers, parents, administrators, board of education members and residents – was formed to communicate accurate information about the consolidation plans, and to encourage those who are not registered to vote to do so prior to Sept. 5.

“Based on the committee’s discussion, we’ve developed detailed frequently asked questions, a PowerPoint presentation, and updated the referendum page on the district website,” said school board President James Donahower. “We are making every effort to reach community members via local media, social media (Facebook, Twitter), email and community meetings such as those of taxpayer associations, community organizations and local events throughout the summer and early fall.”

According to Superintendent Peter J. Kopack, the board was asked in 2010 to consider consolidating the two schools to save money. “Enrollment was declining at that time,” Kopack remarked. “It has since stabilized at about 230 students. The board voted to consolidate into one building to enable us to continue to provide an outstanding education for our students and maintain facilities within a fiscally responsible budget.”

If approved, Question 1 of the referendum, for $14.6 million, will fund the addition to the E.J. School in Surf City: eight new classrooms, including a Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) lab; an art room; student services offices; and a gymnasium for school and community activities.

Question 2 – $3.8 million – will fund “essential renovations to maintain facilities and improve the overall learning environment for students, staff and community members who use the facilities for meetings and activities,” said Bishop.

Question 1 must be approved for the district to move ahead with the items in Question 2.

Bishop pointed out, “If both Questions 1 and 2 are approved, the average annual tax impact of the referendum on a home assessed at $600,000 would be $55 more per year. If just Question 1 is approved, the tax impact would be $43 more per year. This does not take into consideration, however, cost reductions realized through the sale of the Long Beach Island Grade School, debt service aid and annual savings of $350,000 to $450,000 from the consolidation. Those additional savings will reduce the tax impact.

“The LBICSD is eligible for $1.6 million in debt service state aid, which further would reduce the local tax share. The debt service aid only is available, however, if Question 2 is approved.”

The district does not yet have a time frame for the closing of the LBI School in Ship Bottom, but Kopack said the school would remain open through the 2017-2018 school year.

“According to the district,” Bishop explained, “if the referendum is approved, the construction schedule will be developed so it has little or no effect on student instructional time and extracurricular activities. It is likely the construction would begin in 2018, with an approximate move-in date for the addition of December 2019/January 2020.” The district anticipates renovations will be completed during summer 2020.

“We recognize there are strong ties to, and feelings about, the Long Beach Island Grade School,” noted Kopack. “Consolidating the two schools is best for our students and the communities and taxpayers we serve. We understand everyone’s concerns and will work with students, staff, parents and interested community members to highlight and incorporate the long, rich history of the Long Beach Island Grade School into the consolidation.”

As Donahower added, “The board of education believes the proposed referendum will enable the district to balance fiscal responsibility to taxpayers with our mission to provide an exceptional and diverse educational experience for the students.”

To participate in the special election on Sept. 26, residents must be registered to vote by Sept. 5. Voter registration forms are available online, at the county clerk’s office or at the main offices of the E.J. and LBI schools.

Juliet Kaszas-Hoch

juliet@thesandpaper.net

 

 

 

 

 

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