School fix-up to raise average tax bill


If Lyndhurst voters greenlight the Nov. 8 public question to spend almost $20 million on upgrades to five schools, the average homeowner can expect to see an average annual tax increase of $96.

The owner of a home assessed at $305,000 will take yearly hits, ranging from as little as $53 to as much as $122, over the 35-year repayment of the debt on the money borrowed by the Board of Education for the project, beginning in 2018.

That’s the most recent prediction by the fiscal experts engaged by the township school board, according to David DiPisa, the board’s school business administrator.

The school board plans to pay back the debt starting with temporary notes for up to five years, then bonds for up to 30 years.

The board says that the state Department of Education has signed off on its plans to spend $19,873,807 on improvements to Columbus, Franklin, Roosevelt and Washington Elementary schools and to Lyndhurst High School.

Of that total, the board says it anticipates 40% state reimbursement of “project eligible costs” or a total of $4,293,974, thereby leaving a balance of $15,579,833 to be paid by taxpayers.

Over the life of the bonds, the total projected debt will be $20.8 million, with annual payments ranging from a low of $450,623 to a high of $1,047,714.

For those concerned about the board’s borrowing capacity, the board has issued this statement: “The Lyndhurst School District has a legal debt limitation of $108,129,247. [Currently, the district] has only $2,375,000 in outstanding debt (principal). [Consequently, the district] has the ability to finance $105,754,247 in school improvements.”

As part of the defense it has offered for the referendum, the board has also said that, “As the school improvements and related curriculum enhancements take hold, residential property values will increase by at least 60%,” thereby erasing what the board characterizes as “the modest annual cost increase to Lyndhurst taxpayers.”

Of the nearly $15.6 million in local costs, here is how the money will be applied: Columbus School, $4.3 million; Franklin, $2.1 million; Roosevelt, $4.8 million; Washington, $1.6 million; and LHS, $2.6 million.

These capital upgrades – including new multi-purpose rooms, some elevators and a 3-story addition for Columbus to house a gym, four classrooms and an outdoor amphitheater – are envisioned as complementing a new junior high school for grades 7, 8 and 9 that the township is financing via $52 million in bonds that, experts project, will cost the average taxpayer an additional $40 a year over the life of the bonds.

Shauna DeMarco, Lyndhurst superintendent of schools, said that an Oct. 11 groundbreaking has been scheduled for the new facility, which will rise on Matera Field.

“The anticipated opening is September 2020,” DeMarco said.

After the junior high is built, Lincoln Elementary School, more than a century old, will be torn down and the Lincoln property is to be sold in favor of commercial development and revenue from the sale is to be applied to paying off the debt on the junior high construction project.

Two prior school referenda offered in recent years have been turned aside by voters but school officials are hopeful that the third time can be the charm.

“Many organizations have reached out to support it,” said DeMarco. And, between now and Nov. 3, she added, a team of district officials are making themselves available to “go out and talk” to those interested.

So far, demand for that service has been brisk. As of last week, she said, “we’re booked up at least half of each week.”

“Our township is granting us a gift of a state-of-the-art junior high in which to give our students the most current instruction while supporting our plan to give them the core skills they need, giving us an opportunity to build on that,” DeMarco said.


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