Penns Grove-Carneys Point Regional School District planning bond referendum to fund middle school in 2010

Wednesday, October 7, 2009
By Shabria Davis

PENNS GROVE - Officials from the Penns Grove-Carneys Point Regional School District are already preparing for a school bond referendum in 2010 that would fund a new middle school.

The pending $32.5 million referendum would be the first for the district in more than nine years.

During a presentation at the this week's school board meeting, Robert Garrison (of Garrison Architects who has been assigned to the project) outlined the proposal which voters in the twin communities would consider in September 2010.

Garrison told the board that if the referendum is approved, the district may be eligible for a $8.2 million ROD Grant from the state, leaving taxpayers responsible for remaining $24.3 million of the middle school project.

The current middle school at the corner of Maple Avenue and South Virginia Avenue in the borough, originally served as the district's high school.

If voters approve the project, the new middle school would be built on the grounds of the current school. The old school would be razed once students move into the new building.

"If the numbers stay as planned, we are looking at a tax increase of $189 per year for Penns Grove residents and an increase of $288 per year for Carneys Point residents," said Garrison.

In an effort to lower the cost of the referendum, the district has been using some of its own money to fund projects at the other schools.

"We are currently doing $3 million in other projects (at the other schools)," said business administrator Brian Ferguson. "We want to show taxpayers that we are doing work at the other schools and not adding everything into the referendum."

The board members and Garrison agreed that September 2010 would be the best time to hold the referendum.

"Waiting until September 2010 will allow time to explain the need (for the middle school to taxpayers) and it will also give us time to find additional funding," said Garrison.

District Superintendent Dr. Joseph Massare believes a middle school is a necessity, rather than a convenience.

"The current middle school is a time bomb," said Massare.

If approved, the new middle school would take 18 months to build and would be open in time for the beginning of the 2012 school year.

Garrison projects that the new school would be approximately 79,000 square feet and be capable of housing more than 500 students.

The current middle school is over capacity by 120 students.

Following Garrison's presentation, board member Scott Cheesemen asked Garrison what he believed was the biggest infrastructure problem at the current middle school.

"In my opinion it would be the steam pipes," replied Garrison. "You just never know when they are going to break."

The district's announcement of its planned referendum comes just a week after voters in Pittsgrove Township approved a bond referendum to fund renovations at its schools.

The board also hopes to use the funds provided by the referendum to construct a solar energy system at the middle school.

According to Garrison, the school could save between $50,000 to $100,000 per year on electricity costs, if a solar panel were installed.


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