Delanco School District Schedules $5.3M Referendum


By Lisa Helem BCT staff writer

DELANCO - The Delanco School District has scheduled a special election Jan. 28 to ask voters to approve a $5.3 million bond referendum for additions and improvements to the township's Walnut Street and Pearson schools.
If the referendum passes, the Board of Education hopes to build 25,491 square feet of classroom space for 150 students expected to enter the district in the next five years.

The referendum would ask taxpayers to pay $5.3 million, or 68 percent of the project total, currently pegged at $7.7 million, Superintendent Joseph Miller said.

For the owner of a home assessed at $100,000, the township average, referendum approval would cost 12 cents for each $100 of assessed valuation, or an extra $120 a year.

Improvements at the Pearson School would include six new classrooms, a computer lab, gym and full-service kitchen totaling 24,234 square feet. At the Walnut Street School, the library and computer lab would be expanded to meet state code. Additional space there would total 1,257 square feet.

The project includes plans to upgrade heating, lighting, ventilation, fire alarms and communications systems. It also includes making restrooms handicapped-accessible at both schools, Miller said.

The 32 percent of the project not covered by local taxes would be funded by state Economic Development Authority funds marked for use by school districts. Last Wednesday, the authority notified the district it would qualify for $2.4 million, Miller said.

The project was created after the board produced a five-year plan on the impact new developments would have on school enrollment. The firm found that new homes would add 150 students to the district in the next five years, Miller said.

After a volunteer township task force reviewed the plan and recommended school improvements in September, the board voted to approve a proposal from Mount Laurel-based architectural firm Garrison Architects, said Board of Education President James DiMiero.

The board has scheduled a special meeting tomorrow to vote on the wording of the proposal to be put before voters.

In a town where voters have defeated school budgets in the last seven elections, the success of the referendum will depend on the long-range vision of residents, DiMiero said. "When voters go to the polls they have to understand two things. One is that it's needed and the other is that it's the most cost-efficient plan. Three things are in our favor: state funding, interest rates are at an all-time low and competition among construction companies is good."

DiMiero is pegging his hopes on approval. "Delanco residents have to realize that this is their school. The upgrades are for the town," he said.

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