Will Nutley voters approve referendum?

NUTLEY —

As township residents plunge into what will be the last two weeks of Christmas shopping, the Nutley Board of Education hopes local public schools will be on their gift list.

On Dec. 12, local property owners will be asked to interrupt their holiday reverie to go to the polls (not the North Pole) and vote on a crucial public question.

Should the Nutley Board of Education be authorized to spend $68 million for the following:

“(To) provide for the construction of additions, renovations, alterations and improvements at John H. Walker Middle School, Nutley High School, Washington Elementary School and Yantacaw Elementary School, including acquisition and installation of furnishings, fixtures, equipment and site work.”

The Nutley BOE voted unanimously on Sept. 25 to submit the question for consideration by township residents at a special election slated for the second Tuesday in December.

A simple majority of those voting will decide one way or the other.

Local school officials, led by BOE President Daniel Carnicella and Schools Superintendent Julie Glazer, have strongly promoted the proposed blueprint aimed at bolstering the physical plant and reconfiguring space at four of the district’s seven schools.

A profile of the district posted on its website notes that, “Many of these schools were constructed by the beginning of the 20th century and they have been refurbished by referendums in 2002, 2004 and 2006, totaling [by coincidence] $68 million.”

Actually, the total cost of improvements as proposed by the public question is projected at $70.4 million but, because the district, according to the BOE’s professionals, is providing $2.4 million from capital reserve to complete some of the work, the “total cost to bond” comes out to $68 million.

Here is a summary of what the proposed $68 million bonding project will accomplish, school by school:

  • John H. Walker Middle School (currently serving grades 7 and 8), $36.7 million to provide 20 new classrooms (to help absorb incoming sixth-graders), cafeteria and service kitchen, bathrooms, secure entrance and reconfigure of office wing and built-in fixtures and loose furniture.
  • Yantacaw School (serving K to grade 6), $14.5 million to provide six new classrooms and remove existing trailer classrooms, a multi-purpose room, bathrooms, relocate main office and secure entrance and built-in fixtures.
  • Washington School (serving K to grade 6), $9.6 million to provide 3-story addition of six classrooms and eliminate trailers, a multi-purpose room, bathrooms, elevator and built-in fixtures and loose furniture.
  • Nutley High School (serving grades 9 to 12), $9.58 million to provide additional physical education/multi-purpose space, renovate media center/TV studio space to create four additional classrooms and common learning areas, a new media center to include TV studio and built-in fixtures.

Each cost projection includes “fees for architect, engineer, survey, construction manager, permits and 10% set aside for contingencies,” according to the BOE.

In a presentation preceding the board voting on the referendum, the public was briefed on the proposed financing and local tax consequences of the project by Tony Solimine, attorney with the Newark bond firm McManimon, Scotland & Baumann, based in Roseland; Karen Yeamans, district business administrator; and Dara Melchionni, of Acacia Financial Group, headquartered in Mt. Laurel.

The total estimated bonding amount of $68,027,749 will be issued in two phases, with repayments to be made during a 25-year period, with a projected interest rate of 3.95%. “Approximately 33% of the total project costs are eligible to receive debt service aid at 40%, which equates to receiving about 13.29% [state] aid annually,” said Melchionni.

Owners of an “average” home assessed at $317,057 can expect to see an additional $133 on their tax bill for the first year of bond repayment. Year 2 adds $174; year 3 adds $51 for a total of $358.”

Next step in the process of getting the proper wording of the referendum onto the ballot is for the BOE to provide notice to the Essex County Board of Elections by Oct. 13 — 60 days prior to the voting.

 

 

 

 

 

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.