Deptford residents to vote on school upgrades
Friday, November 09, 2007
By Jessica Driscoll

DEPTFORD TWP. On December 11, residents will vote on a $75.5 million two-part school improvement referendum meant to offset an expected district-wide shortage of 1,030 seats by 2011.

"This referendum is extremely important because we already have unhoused students in the district and the problem is getting worse," said school superintendent Dr. Joseph Canataro.

"It is too early to anticipate the public reaction, but we received more aid from the state than we had anticipated."

The first question seeks approval to expand Monongahela Middle School to accommodate fifth- and sixth-grade students with the addition of a 33-classroom wing for grades seven and eight, the addition of a wing to Deptford High School which would hold five science labs and eight new classrooms and new heating and ventilation systems in all the schools except Central. The cost for this question is $69.3 million with the state providing $17.5 million, resulting in an annual tax of $174.63.

The second question includes the addition of air conditioning to all district schools and stadium lights, wireless Internet and a band room for the high school. The cost for this question is $6.1 million with state aid of $2.3 million, resulting in an annual tax of $15.67.

The second question cannot pass without approval of the first. The first question can pass on its own.

According to the state model, the expansion would increase district seating capacity from 3,779 to 4,895 seats, enough to accommodate an expected enrollment of 4,809 by 2011. Planning and design is by Garrison Architects of Mt. Laurel.

"We can't build beyond five year projection and still receive state aid," stated Canataro in a Nov. 7 press release.

"We'll handle the enrollment as projected and permitted. We want the community to know that we are spending tax dollars wisely."

The construction of high school science labs was deemed necessary by school officials to get the district ready for a new state science curriculum that will mandate more lab experience for graduation. Improvements will replace and modernize 40 to 50-year-old systems in the elementary schools, construct handicapped ramps and expand kitchens at Oak Valley and Shady Lane Schools.

With the state providing 26.4 percent of all costs, tax for both questions on the ballot is $190.30 per year for the 30-year life of the bonds for an average property in the township assessed at $110,000. According to school officials, future residents will share the cost of the bond distribution.

A public hearing on the referendum is scheduled for Nov. 14.


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