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School district representatives describe revised referendum for Allentown officials

ALLENTOWN – Representatives of the Upper Freehold Regional School District have formally notified Allentown’s mayor and Borough Council that a school referendum to be placed before voters on Nov. 6 is $2.31 million less than a referendum voters rejected on Sept. 26, 2017.

Board of Education President Patricia Hogan, Business Administrator Margaret Hom and Acting Superintendent of Schools Mark Guterl attended the council’s May 22 meeting to describe the referendum residents of Allentown and Upper Freehold Township will be asked to approve this fall.

The school district’s representatives attended the meeting at the request of the borough’s governing body.

On Sept. 26, voters in Upper Freehold Township and Allentown rejected a series of proposed school district 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.

Hogan said the revised referendum totals $7.184 million. Of that amount, $5.87 million is expected to be spent on what she described as much needed roof repairs and replacement. She said district administrators have removed the installation of solar panels and the completion of aesthetic improvements to the high school auditorium from the referendum.

“We have taken out the fluff,” she said.

Hogan said if the referendum fails on Nov. 6, the school district could still pursue the roof repairs by applying to the state for emergency funding.

Hom said if the referendum is approved by voters, the annual payment on the debt would be about $350,000 for 20 years (total of $7 million).

She said if the referendum fails and administrators request and receive emergency funding, the repayment would have to be made on an accelerated schedule and would leave the district with a debt payment of about $1.5 million annually.

The debt payment must be accounted for in the school district’s regular budget, Hom told Mayor Greg Westfall, council members and the public.

“There is no way to fit that $1.5 million payment into the budget without decimating our academic programs,” Hom said.

If the $9.96 million referendum had been approved on Sept. 26, the owner of a home 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 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.

Hogan said the cost of the $7.184 million referendum to individual property owners will be determined after school district administrators receive information from the state regarding the amount the state will pay toward the project costs. She said the state could cover about 34 percent of the referendum.

In other school district news, Hogan said Superintendent of Schools Richard M. Fitzpatrick, who has been out of the district for several weeks, has been diagnosed with a glioblastoma and will undergo radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Guterl has been named the acting superintendent.

Hogan said the board is not taking any action regarding the situation at this time and told those in attendance that Fitzpatrick “is appreciative of all the prayers” he is receiving.

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