HomeExaminerExaminer NewsUpper Freehold board considers changes in referendum

Upper Freehold board considers changes in referendum

Members of the Upper Freehold Regional School District Board of Education are beginning to plan for a new referendum involving projects at district buildings after a previous referendum was defeated by voters.

Board members discussed the possibility of placing a new referendum before voters during a meeting that was held at the Newell Elementary School, Allentown, on Dec. 13.

On Sept. 26, the board asked voters in Upper Freehold Township and Allentown to approve a series of projects at a total cost not to exceed $9.96 million. The referendum was defeated by voters, 1,098 no to 625 yes.

The referendum included the following projects: Newell Elementary School, roof replacement; Allentown High School, roof replacement; Global Learning Center and Vo/Ag building, roof project; Newell Elementary School, solar panels project; Allentown High School, solar panels project; Global Learning Center, solar panels project; Allentown High School, auditorium renovations; and Newell Elementary School, new emergency generator.

If the referendum had been approved, the owner of a home that is assessed at the Allentown average of $289,483 would have paid an additional $103 per year in school taxes for 20 years. The owner of a home that is assessed at the Upper Freehold Township average of $464,500 would have paid an additional $158 per year in school taxes for 20 years, according to a handout prepared by the district.

At the Dec. 13 meeting, Steven Siegel and Gary Wagner of Spiezle Architectural Group, Hamilton, discussed changes that could be made to a future referendum.

“Nothing is set in stone,” Siegel said.

One possible change discussed by Siegel and Wagner was to remove $2.77 million worth of work and to present voters with a $7.18 million package of projects.

Removing the solar panel projects would save $2.24 million and Siegel said many members of the community were opposed to the proposed solar panels.

Other cost reductions were related to the planned auditorium renovations at Allentown High School, which Siegel described as aesthetic in nature.

In a possible second referendum, the proposed replacement of auditorium wall cove lighting, carpeting and wall paneling were removed, the estimates to replace the sound system and stage floor were reduced, and the cost of replacing stage and lighting rigging was adjusted, according to the presentation.

If the board removes the solar panel projects and alters the auditorium renovations, it will have the option of replacing them with new projects – the replacement of the Newell Elementary School fire alarm ($492,180), the replacement of the Global Learning Center/annex building fire alarm ($72,800), the upgrade of four rest rooms in the 1936 portion of the elementary school ($364,000) and the replacement of 46 unit ventilators in the elementary school and the addition of cooling ($1.84 million).

The new projects would cost $2.767 million and bring the total price of the referendum to $9.95 million.

Siegel said the board could also include the replacement of the Vo-Ag building fire alarm ($55,120), the replacement of 34 unit ventilators in the high school and the addition of cooling ($1.36 million) and the replacement of the high school auditorium’s rooftop unit ($357,500).

If changes are made in the referendum that was defeated by voters in September, the revised referendum will have to be resubmitted to the state and the state may not provide 40 percent of the funding as was the case in the Sept. 26 referendum, Siegel said.

Discussions regarding the projects are expected to continue in 2018 and a referendum may be placed before voters during the year, according to board members.

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