New projections will lower the overall project cost $10 annually over a 30-year proposed plan.
By Matt Skoufalos
The Haddon Township school district received some positive news this week, as negotiations with the state trimmed $1.1 million off its $40.1 million-dollar building project.
As a result, said Superintendent Nancy Ward, only 4 percent of the entire proposal—including the $4.5 million proposed stadium renovations—would not receive any state aid.
“It’s debt service,” Ward said. “I don’t want to say that it’s grant money, but it is still funded at 40 percent.”
The savings came because the New Jersey Department of Education agreed to treat the Van Sciver Elementary School multipurpose room as a renovation, and not new construction.
New construction is only funded at $143 per square foot, Ward said, as per the Educational Facilities Construction and Financing Act of 1998, which also provides a square-footage model for classroom sizes.
Those figures do not apply to renovations, which changed the metrics of the proposal.
“The architect kept going back to them and saying, ‘We’re repurposing space, we’re not just building, and there’s no model in the state that says a multipurpose room should be this small,’” Ward said.
“Because we’re not just adding a room and [are]repurposing our existing space, they considered it renovation, and they gave us $1.1 million more,” she said.
The adjustment lowers the overall projected cost of the build-out by $10 a year, from $274 to $264 annually for a home assessed at the township average of $223,984.
Taxpayers will decide on a second question whether to approve an additional $46 annually for the $4.543 million stadium improvements.
If voters approve both measures at the September 30 vote, their taxes could climb as much as $310.05 a year for the next 30 years. The bonds funding the project would be financed at a projected 4.5 percent interest rate.
Ward added that the district, sensitive to the fact that taxpayers would be shouldering the load for the improvements, would eliminate the student activities fees for middle and high schoolers, a savings of $75 and $100 per child, respectively.
“If you start to reduce the 2% allowable tax levy, then you start to reduce your base budget, and you give yourself less room to make the improvements and changes that you want to make,” she said.
“What relief could we give people? One of the ways is the activity fee.”
The referendum will be held September 30. Township residents must be registered vote by September 9 to participate.