Tech school funding OK'd

Published: May 1, 2014
Written by Daniel J. Kov for The Daily Journal

BRIDGETON —The fiscal future of Cumberland County came into sharp focus Wednesday night with the passage of a $70 million bond ordinance for the proposed new Cumberland County Tech School and the 2014 annual budget, which raises the county tax rate by 1.8 percent.

Cumberland County Technology Center rendering

 


Combined, the two call for a greater contribution from local residents to both help plug the county’s budget woes and partially subsidize its most ambitious building project in years.

But supporters of the tech school project say the new institute would be a game-changer for Cumberland County. The board voted 6-1 to approve the ordinance.

“We have an opportunity to create a synergy that will be second to none,” Freeholder Tony Surace said. “The only way we’re going to move from the lowest ranking is education, and I think this is the best way to do it.”

Freeholder Darlene R. Barber agreed. “This is something that is beyond all of us,” she said. “Watching other counties grow their career and technical programs, their communities grew right with it. It’s going to make a better educational opportunity for the kids in Cumberland County.”

Freeholder Tom Sheppard, the lone vote opposing the tech school, said he preferred the board look at an alternative of expanding the current Cumberland County Tech Center.

“There’s nobody up here who doesn’t think we shouldn’t have a full-time tech center,” Sheppard said. “But I’m scared to death that we’ll spend this $70 million and then not have the funding to pay for all the teachers and staff we need. I think we need to look at spending less money at the current location.”

For more than a decade, residents have heard officials discuss plans for the county’s first full-time technical education center.

Roughly 69 percent of the principal cost of that project — or approximately $48,645,800 million — will be entitled to state Department of Education aid, officials have said.

That leaves the county on the hook for roughly $21.4 million, which will be collected through annual increases in the county tax levy over the next 30 years.

Freeholders officially announced the funding breakthrough at a public event at the Cumberland County College in February. The campus will serve as the location for the new 193,000-square-foot tech school, scheduled to begin construction later this summer.

Michael DeLeon, who is on the Cumberland County College Board of Trustees said, “It’s time for this county to be looking forward. If you put the tech school on the campus of that college, you will see a synergy that will change this county.”

Speaking as a taxpaying resident of Vineland, he added, “I’m not looking at this as an increase in my taxes, I’m looking at this as an investment.”

 

 

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