School work on ballot in Marlboro

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MARLBORO – The Marlboro K-8 School District Board of Education will place a referendum in front of voters on Sept. 26 and ask for approval to make $26.3 million in capital improvements at six schools.

Board members voted 5-2 on June 20 to place the question on the ballot on a date that has been authorized by the state for special school elections. The vote will mark the third time the board has placed the question before voters.

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If the referendum is approved by a simple majority, infrastructure upgrades will be completed at six of the district’s eight schools.

Administrators have said the cost of the work cannot be accounted for in the regular operating budget and must be the subject of a referendum. Bonds in the amount of $26.3 million would be issued to cover the cost of the work.

The district would receive 40 percent of the total cost of the project in state debt service aid ($10.52 million) and leave $15.78 million to be paid by Marlboro’s property owners, according to district administrators.

“The capital requirements we have cannot be addressed in a timely manner through our annual budget,” Superintendent of Schools Eric Hibbs said in a previous statement. “Despite consistent maintenance, our systems are old. It is increasingly difficult to maintain our systems because outdated parts are no longer available.”

According to the proposal for the capital improvements:

• $6.16 million would be allocated for work at the Marlboro Middle School

• $4.9 million would be allocated for work at the Asher Holmes Elementary School

• $4.73 million would be allocated for work at the Marlboro Elementary School

• $3.97 million would be allocated for work at the Robertsville Elementary School

• $3.93 million would be allocated for work at the Frank Defino Central Elementary School

• $2.61 million would be allocated for work at the Frank J. Dugan Elementary School.

No projects are proposed at the Marlboro Memorial Middle School or at the David C. Abbott Early Learning Center.

The scope of the project is expected to include windows, fire alarm systems, temperature control panels, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, electrical boards, feeders, boilers, pumps, switchboards and electric generators.

Board members indicated they had the option to place the referendum on the Nov. 7 general election ballot, but opted to hold the referendum on Sept. 26. They said several other school districts in Monmouth County may hold a special election that day.

Business Administrator Cindy Barr-Rague said the cost to Marlboro to hold the election on Sept. 26 will be about $8,000 to $9,000 if three districts go forward with a referendum. She said the cost to Marlboro could decrease if another district also schedules a referendum that day.

A motion was made to place the question before voters on Sept. 26.

Board member Robert Daniel said, “At first I had concerns about Sept. 26 vs. Nov. 7, but you are asking the community to come out just for this (special election). After reflecting on it more, it means (that on Sept. 26), you are guaranteed that 100 percent of the people are voting just (on) this referendum, which I think is the right thing to do by all of Marlboro, not just residents with children in the district.”

Board member Craig Marshall said, “The contents of the referendum have not changed and we have put it out to the public twice. I disagree with the logic that we should not be doing it in a larger election because of the turnout. To me, that is exactly when we should be doing it; not during a smaller election because then people get the impression we are trying to pull the wool over their eyes.

“There are different philosophies in terms of when (to hold the referendum election). I disagree with doing it in September. I think it should be a part of the Nov. 7 general election if the board decides they are going to go through with the referendum,” he said.

Marshall questioned the results of a recent survey the board put out to the public.

“When I saw the questions that were asked (in the survey) and phrases such as serous facilities and security concerns, critical facility and security needs, and facility and safety concerns, I felt like it was misleading because I don’t recall in the original two failed referendums that security was an issue,” he said.

“If that is correct, then I’m not sure why the term ‘security’ was used in the survey questions. I think it was misleading and might have skewed any responses we (received) and I have an issue with that. I don’t want it to be misconstrued that I don’t believe the facilities need updates. I believe they do, I’ve seen these buildings myself.

“My issue and why I can’t support going forth with this referendum is that I believe the feedback we have gotten from the community is not accurate. I feel people were misled. I take full responsibility and I kick myself for not asking to see the survey questions before they went out,” Marshall said.

When the motion was called for a vote to place the referendum before the public on Sept. 26, board President Debbie Mattos, Vice President Stephen Shifrinson and board members Randy Heller, Robyn Wolfe and Daniel voted yes. Marshall and Dara Enny voted no. The motion passed, 5-2.

Joanne Liu-Rudel and Ellen Xu abstained. They have not responded to messages seeking comment as to why they abstained on the vote.

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