Upper Township schools want $38 million to build a new school, renovate others

Press of Atlantic City.com
Posted: Monday, September 27, 2010

UPPER TOWNSHIP — Upper Township school officials are trying to drum up public support on a $38 million proposal to build a new elementary school and renovate the middle and primary schools in a long range facilities plan developed with Garrison Architects of Marlton.

At an Upper Township Committee meeting, the school district on Monday night made the first of a series of public pitches detailing reasons for the construction and the borrowing plan. The district wants to put the issue on the public ballot in January.

After factoring in state grant funding and debt service aid, the local share would be $28.7 million, school officials said.

But Township Committee members and even some school members themselves indicated the long-range facilities plan would be a hard sell in the township, which defeated the school budget in April.

“You have an uphill battle with the amount of money you’re talking about,” said Mayor Richard Palombo said, who indicated the district could consider selling property to offset some of the costs.

School board member James Arsensault said the proposal represents a preliminary plan the district may put before voters. There may be some changes based on what comes out at public meetings over the next few months, he said.

The largest portion of the proposal is $22.6 million for construction of a 62,645 square-foot elementary school in Marmora that would be built behind the existing one built in 1953, school officials said. About $19 million would be funded locally through a bond with the rest covered by state funding.

After the new school would open, the old school would be demolished and turned into a parking lot.

“The building is so old and there are a lot of Band-Aids we keep putting on,” district Business Administrator Laurie Ryan said.

At the Upper Township Primary School in Marmora, $6.1 million of work is proposed, 40 percent of which will be funded by the state. Work there includes removing old underground storage tank for a diesel generator, replacing wood windows with aluminum, replacing ceiling tiles, kitchen equipment and fire alarms and other work.

At the Upper Township Middle School in Petersburg, $9.8 million in work is proposed, with 40 percent of which will be funded through the state. Plans include renovating the gym, replacing part of the roof, replacing windows, asbestos shingles and other work.

The school district said the proposals would raise the school tax rate per $100,000 of assessed value from $79 to $96 per year, depending on the length of the bond.


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