Aging infrastructure prompts need for Marlboro school referendum

By Dr. Eric Hibbs

I am the proud superintendent of the Marlboro K-8 School District and I am writing to discuss our upcoming facility referendum which will be held on Sept. 26. While there has been a great deal of dialogue about our referendum, I want to be sure that residents have the pertinent facts.

• The Board of Education and administration decided to go out for a referendum because our systems are aged; some are more than 50 years old and beyond their useful life

• The state is willing to fund 40 percent of the total cost of our $26.3 million  referendum. This means $10.5 million will be funded by the state only if the community votes to pass the referendum. This opportunity may not be around forever given the state’s finances

• Every year, our district addresses as many items as possible under “maintenance and repairs” within the local budget. In fact, this summer we replaced the roof of the Marlboro Elementary School at an approximate cost of $900,000. While many maintenance projects are completed every year, we simply cannot afford to fix $26.3 million of priority capital improvements within our local budget which is capped at 2 percent

• This referendum will not raise taxes. In order to accomplish this, the board is using $2.135 million from the reserve account. The average home in Marlboro is assessed at $500,000 and currently pays $256 per year in debt service (old debt). This payment will continue for three years whether the referendum passes or fails

• If the referendum passes, the payment in the fourth year will reduce from $256 to $99 per year for 13 years

• If the referendum fails, the debt service of $256 will no longer apply after year three

• So, for a $99 payment per year for 13 years, we can address every pending major capital improvement for our children in Marlboro

• Importantly, each and every item in the referendum will eventually have to be addressed whether the referendum passes or fails. A failed referendum will result in a 10- to 15-year facility improvement plan that will cost the taxpayers 100 percent of the total costs

• A successful referendum will save millions of dollars in the long term. You may have noticed on a recent notification from Marlboro Township (Your 2017 Tax Bill Explained) that Marlboro K-8 approved a budget for 2017-18 that reduced taxes. I cannot speak for the Board of Education, but any future tax decrease, in my opinion, would be unlikely if our district uses a 10- to 15-year plan to implement these $26.3 million of necessary facility priority improvements.

There are varying viewpoints on the merits of our facility needs and our referendum. We conducted a comprehensive facilities study that generated a list of our priority needs; these are the items included in our referendum. In my opinion and in the opinion of our professionals, every item is necessary in order to maintain a safe learning environment for our children.

So, on Sept. 26, you will have the opportunity to vote either yes or no to a referendum that will: (1) not increase current taxes; (2) will address every priority facility need in our entire district; and (3) will keep our buildings safe and secure for our children for years to come. I am very proud of our school district.

In my 2016-17 graduation speech to our eighth grade students, I finished with a powerful sentence: “Graduates of 2017 – Best of Luck! We are Marlboro. That means something. Go forth and change the world.”

A 10- to 15-year facility improvement plan for systems that are well past their useful life just simply is not Marlboro and only delays the inevitable; our children and our staff deserve better. Please remember to vote on Sept. 26. If you have any questions about the referendum, please do not hesitate to email me at ehibbs@mtps.org

Dr. Eric Hibbs is the superintendent of schools in the Marlboro K-8 School District.