School district updates Hillsborough residents on referendum vote

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The Hillsborough Township School District reminds residents to vote on the upcoming referendum on March 12.

Residents will be asked to vote on Hillsborough Township Public Schools’ plan to invest in the future of the district by implementing a full-day kindergarten program as well as assisting the board in laying out a plan for long-term financial stability.

“This upcoming referendum vote is very important for the future of our schools and our students,” said Superintendent of Hillsborough Schools, Jorden Schiff. “I encourage residents to educate themselves on the financial concerns facing the district, as well as the proposed addition of a full-day kindergarten program that is already available in 90 percent of New Jersey districts.

“Ours is a high achieving district and by passing this referendum, it will allow the district to maintain the current programs and class size that got us where we are as well as expand our offerings to our youngest learners,” he said.

If approved by voters, board members said the referendum will result in a 2019 property tax increase of about $300 for the owner of a home that is assessed at the township average of $389,300.

The referendum will seek approval from voters for the spending of $8.09 million to implement a full-day kindergarten program and provide for a long-term financial stability plan for the district.

According to board members, Hillsborough is one of three districts in Somerset County that  offers only a half-day kindergarten program. Approximately, 90 percent of districts in the state have full-day kindergarten. Board members said that meeting the state standards for kindergarten are much more challenging in a half-day vs. a full-day program.

If the referendum is approved by voters, board members said full-day kindergarten would be implemented for the start of the 2019-20 school year. The program is planned to be held at all six elementary schools in the district.

Board members reported that implementation expenses would include staff, supplies, training, technology, transportation costs, and the lease of modular classrooms to be used for offices and/or specialty classrooms to allow for additional kindergarten classrooms to be set up in the school buildings.

If the referendum is rejected, officials said they would need to consider reducing teachers and staff and increasing class sizes, as well as being forced to contemplate increasing fees for students who participate in athletics and co-curricular activities, and eliminating programs the board could no longer afford.

Reductions would continue in future years as state aid is reduced $5.34 million over the next six years, according to board members.

Some important dates for this upcoming referendum vote include:

March 5, 2019 — Deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot by mail

March 11, 2019 — Deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot in person (may be done until 3:00 p.m. on the day before the election at the County Clerk’s office)

March 12, 2019 — Referendum Date

March 12, 2019 — Deadline for post office receipt of mail-in ballots as well as deadline for in-person submission (by 8 p.m. at the Somerset County Clerk’s office)

If a voter is uncertain if he/she is registered to vote, this information may also be confirmed via the website.

To obtain a voter registration form, residents are urged to visit the New Jersey Division of Elections.

Additional information regarding voting by mail may be obtained on the New Jersey Division of Elections website as well. If a voter has previously requested a mail-in ballot and is uncertain if he/she will be receiving one for this special school board election, contact the Somerset County Clerk’s office at 908-231-7013.

Sample ballots will be mailed to all registered voters on March 6, 2019. Check the ballot for the designated polling location as it may be different from previously held state and federal elections.

Additional details and referendum information are available on the district website at www.htps.us.