The state’s got the money and the Cinnaminson School District wants it.
According to Superintendent Salvatore Illuzzi, the state has about $500 million in construction funding that has yet to be released to districts. Illuzzi and the school board want that funding for “much-needed” repairs and updates to the high school and other district schools, a project passed by resolution this time last year.
To see a copy of the 2011 presentation, click on the PDF to the right.
Regardless whether the district waits for these funds to be released, a public referendum vote is necessary to raise the money. But the state funds would cut the amount needed from taxpayers by nearly 35 percent.
“That’s a lot of money the district and the community would get from the state,” Illuzzi said.
Architect Robert Garrison Jr. of Garrison Architects presented to the school board in October 2011 outlining deficiencies the high school faces—inadequate parking, insufficient lighting, problems with the gymnasium, outdated boiler systems and more.
Other proposed improvements include new canopies and vestibules for New Albany Elementary School, Eleanor Rush Intermediate School and the middle school.
“The project itself really took in the needs of the district both right now and well into the foreseeable future,” said Illuzzi.
Some upgrades qualify for state reimbursement and some do not.
“The board obviously wanted to build a project that will receive as much state reimbursement as possible,” Illuzzi said. “So, that’s what we did.”
Last year, Illuzzi said the board had high hopes the money would be released. But a year later, it hasn’t been.
A few months ago, it became even more apparent, the superintendent said, that the high school needed some repairs. Illuzzi told Garrison this and asked him to give his best guess on the state's plans as far as releasing funds.
“He said it’s not a question of if the money will be released, it’s a question of when,” Illuzzi said.
The problem facing Illuzzi and the board recently is how long they should wait and see if the money is in fact released.
“How long can we wait if we have to do something to the building?” Illuzzi said of the high school.
So, Garrison was called back in to revise the initial plans for upgrades to each district building in case state money doesn’t come through; Illuzzi and the school board didn’t want to ask the public for the full amount.
“The board will look at the cost as compared to the [initial] project to see if it’s better to wait and see if the governor releases the money,” Illuzzi said.
Next year is an election year for Gov. Chris Christie—who just announced his bid to run for a second term.
“I think it’s a good bet [the state] will release the money,” Illuzzi said.
In the downsized plan Garrison is working on, Illuzzi said, upgrades to the high school, including the new gymnasium and a connection of the second floor, would not be done.
“All that would be done is to replace the boilers to make sure the building would be secure,” he said.
If the money were released soon, the district would most likely ask for the cost of the full project, including a new gym. Much of that cost would be offset by state funds.
For example, if the money were released by February 2013, the referendum vote would be in September 2013. Work would begin in March 2014 and be completed in June 2015.
“We’re looking at our options at this point,” Illuzzi said. “The biggest concern is the boiler and what I call the 'guts' of the building—the infrastructure, the electric, the plumbing and the heating ventilation system. They are all original to the building.”
The high school was built in 1964 and the “guts” are way past their 40-year lifetime expectancies. The second floor of the building was put on two years later.
The school board’s facilities/transportation committee is meeting with Garrison Dec. 13 to discuss options. Those options will be brought back to the full board in an upcoming meeting.
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