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School district to hold a special public forum on Oct. 13 for December referendum

The Cranbury School District is “full STEAM ahead” on providing information regarding the Dec. 14 referendum designed to serve the students and community of Cranbury.

The referendum includes projects focused on facilities improvements to create a more robust educational experience in the areas of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics). 

The district has created a series of informational meetings, both in-person and online. The public is invited to a special public forum on Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. at Cranbury School.

Prior to the forum, residents may take a tour of the Cranbury School beginning at 5 p.m.

District representatives are also eager to visit any community/civic group, business, or neighborhood gathering that may want to host an information session, according to a prepared statement.

“We want to be sure every resident has a chance to explore the projects, ask questions, and have their voice heard,’’ Susan Genco, chief school administrator/principal of Cranbury School, said in the statement. “We hope the Cranbury community will join us and tour the school on Oct. 13, or attend one of the many informational sessions we have scheduled.’’ 

The Dec. 14 referendum seeks voter approval for an $18.4 million bond to make a series of facility improvements. Of those costs, $12.4 million in costs are eligible to receive state aid to offset costs.

The future-focused projects being proposed were born from a community-wide strategic planning initiative. 

Board President Karen Callahan said the district and board have worked hard to make consistent facilities improvements over the years within the confines of the annual operating budget, according to the statement.

“The last referendum was completed in 2003,” Callahan said. “These projects seek to address existing needs while also anticipating the future needs of our school and larger community.” 

Through the referendum, the district seeks to: 

  • Renovate middle school science classrooms to create equitable learning spaces for more collaborative, hands-on, project-based learning.
  • Create an Academic Commons with a media center and flexible learning and makerspace areas.
  • Renovate the outdated cafeteria & kitchen with energy-efficient appliances and flexible features to enhance the district’s recycling program and to model sustainability.
  • Restructure the main entrance and main office and relocate the nurse’s suite to increase security, alleviate congestion and limit cross-activity. 
  • Renovate the existing auditorium to create a Center for Arts Education, which can be used by students and the Cranbury community and which could also be a source of revenue for the district.
  • Replace middle school lockers; and make other security and facility improvements to the parking lot, blacktop behind school, and other areas to improve activities. 

The total cost of the projects is $18,462,947. The New Jersey Department of Education has determined that approximately $12.4 million of the total project costs are eligible for state funding in the form of debt service aid, according to the statement.

Debt service aid is a partial payment of a bond made annually by the state. 

Based on the state formula for debt service aid, 34% of these eligible costs would be paid each year through debt service aid, and remaining costs would be funded by the taxpayers of Cranbury, according to District Business Administrator Nicole Petrone.

Petrone said the local share of these project costs would represent an increase of $24.27 per $100,000 of assessed home value on the debt service portion of the school tax rate. 

“This means for a homeowner assessed at the current township average of $609,831, their tax bill would include a net increase of approximately $148 annually in debt service for this referendum,’’ she said in the statement.

The district website will offer a tax impact estimator that residents can use to compute how the referendum would impact them. 

“We are fully committed to making sure every resident understands what we are proposing and why, and to ensuring that all of their questions are answered,’’ Genco said in the statement. “We want to ensure everyone is in a position to make an informed decision at the polls on Dec. 14.” 

Project details, before-and-after renderings, voting information and a full list of in-person and online information sessions are available at www.cranburyschool.org/referendum/. 

Upcoming opportunities include: 

  • Oct. 13 – Tour the Cranbury School to see areas of proposed projects in person (prior to Public Forum) – 5 p.m.
  • Oct. 13 – Special BOE Public Forum on Referendum at Cranbury School – 7 p.m.
  • ● Oct. 21 – Online Q&A Session at 6 p.m. (see link online) 

In addition to the numerous scheduled public information events, district representatives are willing to come to any community group, civic organization or gathering of neighbors who would like to host them, according to the statement.

“These are important conversations about our plans for the future and how they impact the community,’’ Callahan said in the statement. “Sometimes it’s just easier to sit with a smaller group of people and talk – and we are happy to do that.’’

A resident who has questions or who would like to schedule an in-person discussion is encouraged to email the district at fullsteamahead@cranburyschool.org or to call 609-395-1700, ext. 249. 

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