in Collingswood, Haddon Hts.
Voters in Collingswood and
Haddon Heights will be asked to approve up to a combined $75 million
in school construction projects. Both boroughs are expected to put construction
referendums up for a vote next year, but neither has decided how much
money to ask for. Designs for both districts are by Garrison Architects
of Mt. Laurel, NJ.
Haddon Heights schools need $19 million worth of renovation work, school
district officials said. The district wants to replace sections of the
roof, the windows, and some faulty or inefficient heating systems in
several schools. Authorities also want to build a new gymnasium at Atlantic
Avenue Elementary School. The Junior and Senior High School needs more
classrooms and the auditorium, art rooms, music rooms and science labs
need renovation, Superintendent Nancy Hacker said.
"We have a big space issue at the high school right now,"
Hacker said. "We have students at the auditorium during study hall."
The money would also be used to build a multipurpose room at Seventh
Avenue and Glenview schools. "We're really maxed out in terms of
classroom space," she said, adding art and music classes are sometimes
held in the cafeteria.
But taxpayers are not expected to fund the entire project. The state
could pay up to 40 percent of construction costs. Hacker said the state
usually funds between 25 percent and 35 percent of construction costs,
sometimes more. That means Haddon Heights taxpayers could be asked to
vote on whether to spend between $11 million and $14 million in taxes
over the period of the bond at a January referendum. Hacker did not
want to speculate on the tax impact of the proposed projects until the
state determines how much it will fund.
Haddon Heights resident Carol Ostock said she will wait until the district
provides a final figure before deciding on whether to vote for or against
the projects."I haven't decided, but I think it's a bit exorbitant
what they're asking for," Ostock said.
Collingswood schools need $56 million worth of work, school district
officials said. Superintendent James Bathurst said the state will likely
pay $17 million, leaving the remaining $39 million to taxpayers. That
would result in a tax hike of roughly $427 for the average Collingswood
house assessed at $102,500, school board President Craig Knaup said.
But district officials know voters are unlikely to approve such a steep
tax hike. "Quite honestly, we know that there's only so many dollars,"
"That's what I refer to as the Cadillac version, it has everything
we could possibly want," Knaup said.
The schools' bare-minimum needs - such as asbestos removal, handicapped
accessibility compliance and upgrades to the electrical and HVAC systems
- would cost roughly $24 million, $10 million of which would come from
the state. That means taxpayers would have to fund roughly $13 million.
Knaup said voters will likely be asked to approve about $20 million
worth of construction work in a March referendum. It is up to the community
to decide how to spend it.
Paul and Tenley Diefenbach, who have lived in Collingswood for two years,
said it would be money well spent. "It seems like the people who
look for houses in Haddon Township or Haddonfield as opposed to Collingswood
do it because of the schools," said Tenley Diefenbach, adding that
the town could attract more new residents by improving its schools.
But some longtime residents are unconvinced. "I don't want to see
the taxes go up anymore. They're high enough as it is," said Jim
Nott, a volunteer at Friends in Deed, a thrift shop on Haddon Avenue.
"I love this town, it's a great town, but the taxes are too high."