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Cinnaminson Schools Need Repairs but Will State Money Come Through?

The school board is waiting to see if the state will release construction funding but a referendum is most likely coming next year.

 

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.

The background

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outlining deficiencies the high school faces—inadequate parking, insufficient lighting, problems with the gymnasium, outdated boiler systems and more.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.”

The money

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.

What now?

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.

Stay with Patch as we exclusively bring you this story.

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Phil November 27, 2012 at 08:10 PM
I too am a graduate and my kids will go here as well, however, that doesn't excuse the fact these schools have had the issues they're trying to suggest since I went there and they probably still look like they did when you graduated in 1970. My question to the administration would be what have you done to help prepare, financially, for the day you need to upgrade/update the school system's infrastructure? My guess is they haven't except to request state money and get the money through a tax raising referendum.
Maury November 27, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Great story Christina. I had no idea this was going on and the Patch again brings us news we wouldn't know otherwise. Here's my "two cents." It is apparent the high school needs work done and I actually think the school board is doing the right thing by scaling down the project while waiting to see what money is going to come in. We all know repairs and updates are a necessary evil and I would happily vote for a referendum to fix up and improve the schools if the state can foot 35 percent of the bill. But I agree with Ric. Maybe we can go to meetings to encourage the school board to cut elsewhere to ease the burden of school tax increases every year? No administrator should receive a raise...period.
Ric November 27, 2012 at 08:30 PM
So Jane, are you saying money does not matter to you? Do you think residents should pay whatever the school district wants? Money should be no object? If that is the case, why aren't you living in a Moorestown mansion and sending your grand’s to Westfield Friends? Nice talking to ya. Bye.
AnoninCinna November 27, 2012 at 09:16 PM
These upgrades are long overdue. Our high school has been in need of repairs for quite some time. I would think that paying for updates and repairs now would be worth it in the long run when the whole building may have to be torn down and replaced. Maybe this will finally get Ric to move since he is always complaining!
Steve Piotrowski November 27, 2012 at 09:16 PM
What I don't understand is that aren't capital projects like building maintenance and improvements built into our yearly budgets so that every so many years these projects are funded from a line item in the budget. Sounds like to me that proper budgetting has not been done here or did this line item exist at one time and our board let it get gobbled up by some other need.
Ric November 27, 2012 at 09:45 PM
AnoninCinna. Thanks for thinking of me. **SMOOCH** I apologize for never mentioning you but I keep forgetting about ya.
John November 27, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Oh boy, another dodge charger on the loose.....who got it this time.....If the budget was done the right way yes your right but I guess someone does not know accounting 101......oh well, us taxpayers will lose in the end....sob sob
Bill O'Connor November 28, 2012 at 01:15 AM
For Dr. Illuzzi and the School Board to scale back the projects to the essential few items needed immediately, is the right approach if the state money isn't available. If the money is still tied up because of the Abbott School District issues, then it could be awhile before this money is freed up to be used in other school districts throughout the state. As it relates to Capital Project planning, it is difficult to put away money when your budget goes to the voters every year and now is capped by state oversight. While these are good checks and balances, it doesn't make the need for Capital Improvements any less necessary. Hopefully, the Cinnaminson School District has retired some previous bond issues recently and it doesn't make huge impact on the tax bills. Before, we jump to judgement let's see the final product that is put before the taxpayers to vote on.
Skitch November 28, 2012 at 05:50 AM
Updating the schools are way past due!! They are old. I am a life long resident of Cinna. I attended the Middle School (I believe) the year it opened. I graduated from the HS 35 yrs ago. As I walk down the halls of both schools with my own kids, I find it is the same and has not changed in 35 years! Attending other schools for school team sporting events makes you realize how outdated our own schools are and why there is a huge need for improvement. If it was up to me, I would knock them down and start all over. At the very least do a major face lift and add on additions. By the time all these improvement are completed my kids will have all graduated from the HS. As a tax payer I am still all for it. Schools are what draw a large percentage of our hard working tax payers to the area. Schools help define the quality of our town and the residents in it.
Santa's elf November 28, 2012 at 03:05 PM
The schools are in dire need of updating and repair. It will only help with the value of this town, because now are schools are worse looking than Camden's. Has anyone else notice this, the Public Safety Director's car seems to be missing from the parking lot overnight...that sends a red flag to North Pole that there is deception going on again with the committee. Santa is definitely watching!
John November 28, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Oh really, schools bring in people, well I happen to know of 5 bank owned vacant houses, one of them I have next door and its been vacant for over 3 years....I like to know about the new math, how can our houses be assessed at over $35000 of there market value and the biggest tax on our bill is for schools...I would also like to know if the population of this town is going up or heading down.....guess we will have to wait on all these answers.....have a good day....
Steve Piotrowski November 28, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Maybe we could get some Mega 2%er to donate money to the school district for this work. Maybe Warren Buffet will help us out. LOL!!!
Skitch November 29, 2012 at 01:51 AM
@ John. There is a reason the houses are vacant. Perhaps they are in foreclosure proceedings which have not been completed yet and the houses can't be sold. Foreclosures can take many years to be finalized. I have seen up to 5 or 6 years. Perhaps no one wants the property due to its condition. Doesn't mean the bank is going to let it go cheap. They want to collect the balance of the mortgage no matter the condition or value of the property. You often find that the house may look ok from the outside but is a sewer on the inside. I went house hunting years back with my brother when he was buying his first home. We looked at a few bank foreclosures in Cinna. Most of the homes were ridiculously overpriced for the condition of the home. Most had long time plumbing leaks with severe mold problems, a couple feet of water in the basement, long time leaking roofs, some were missing plumbing altogether, kitchens altogether. The homeowners got ticked off that they were foreclosed on and caused all kinds of damage to the property prior to moving out. The banks were still selling these properties at or above the market value back then even with all of the damage. No one was going to buy them.
Steve Piotrowski November 29, 2012 at 02:27 AM
So a bank is going to hold onto a house for a long time to try to get the most value out of it. Sounds crazy to keep paying taxes on the property and have maintenance costs that go along with it. This could run into the thousands of dollars each year. You would think the bank would move on the price to avoid these costs. A house near me sold pretty quickly and it was under water by about $150K. The house was in mint condition though and i think was a Short Sale which may be easier than a foreclosure.
Bull Pitt November 29, 2012 at 03:25 AM
How can a school be built so many years ago, with no upgrades, very minor repairs, and some of the highest school taxes in the County, and not have any money put away for renovations? We as homeowners know how old our houses are, and that certain items only last for so long. We plan for a new heater, AC, roof, windows, carpet, etc etc. We replace these things over time, knowing if we do it all at once we could never afford it, (unless we saved for it). I'd really like to know how Delran has been doing everything they have done, and still are doing. Someone knows how to budget, and it's certainly not Cinnaminson!
John November 29, 2012 at 03:29 AM
@Skitch, does the fact that our TAXES are based on over assessed market conditions enter into your facts.....the school wants more money to build schools for who, our population is not increasing is it so whats the real story....everyone is implying that the schools bring in people but thats not correct is it...oh well U seem to have all the answers are U a member of the Board.....I am not, just tired of TAXES
Ric November 29, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Cinnaminson taxpayers have well maintained the high school over the years. For example, recently along with other work the school library was enlarged. Cinnaminson’s population has peaked. In 1970 it was 16,962. By 2010 it dropped only 15,569. There is virtually no undeveloped land left for new homes. Until 1976 the high school served grades 7 to 12 now just 9 to 12 for 828 students. The middle school opened in 1976 and serves grades 6 -8 for 532 students. The middle school was later closed for lack of students for about 15 years from the mid 1980’s. Why do the new plans call for an expansion of 100 additional students? Since the high school is serving fewer students than it served in 1975 it could easily accommodate 100 more students. Besides, the town is virtually built up. I’ve looked over the PDF and have many concerns including student safety with the addition of an elevator. I greatly fear that a closed in a space like that would leave weaker, vulnerable students exposed to violence. There is no such thing as a fool proof alarm system. As our governor is pushing for regionalized services, it would seem prudent for the schools to wait for more direction from the governor about regionalizing schools in our county. Cinnaminson taxpayers may spend a lot of money on an expensive school that is used more by the many other districts. I am going to ignore attacks from school district employees pretending to be concerned parents.
John November 29, 2012 at 06:15 PM
@Ric, there goes there increase in pay....Oh no, now what are they going to do, guess the advertising is going to go thru now.....but its only for the schools, the taxes will still be based on over valued market housing....oh well thats life here ha ha
Steve M November 29, 2012 at 11:45 PM
I believe the dates about the Cinnaminson Middle School and High School are incorrect. I believe the Middle School Opened in Jan 1970 (I was a 6th grader there-I spent the first half of the year at Memorial-Straebel School). The first 1/2 year the Middle School was open only 6th and 7th graders attended. The last year 6th graders went to the High School was September 1969. When I attended Cinnaminson High School in the Fall of 1972 as a Freshmen (9th Grade)-no 6th-8th graders were in the High School. The Cinnaminson Middle School has never closed since it has opened. They did have fifth graders attending the Middle School but returned them to the Elementary schools level a few years later. I believe we to see the final project and cost before passing judgement.
Skitch November 30, 2012 at 02:54 AM
@ John. No I am not a member of the S. Board. I am a life long resident who got an excellent education from Cinnaminson Schools. I moved out of the area for awhile then moved back when I had children so they could attend our schools. If you feel that your taxes are too high, appeal them. If their still too high after that, then move out!! Bye Bye. 5 vacant houses in a town is not all that bad. Look at other neighboring towns their numbers are much higher than 5!! Look at all the for sale signs all over Moorestown, Delran etc. In Pennsauken you can find 4-5 empty houses in a block. The development of housing is not increasing in town, but the population of kids in the schools is. The older folks are moving out and younger families with children are moving in. The # of kids in the classes are starting to go up again. The town is not building more schools, they are fixing the old ones that we already have. Have you been in or taken a good look at our schools? They are old and outdated. Don't get me wrong, I know my taxes are high. When I moved in (1991) I paid approx 2400. I now pay 8900. I know they could be lower. I didn't take advantage of filing an appeal. I didn't have the time, but i have no one to blame but myself for that. I will be doing it this year.
Skitch November 30, 2012 at 03:07 AM
That is not necessarily what I meant. A lot of times they have to hold on to the house due to legal issues (eviction of residents etc.) Most residents do not willingly leave the property and it can take years to get them out. When they do get evicted the house gets trashed on their way out). In between the eviction and the listing there are more steps to make it the bank's property (not sure exactly what those are). Then the house is listed, but by that time the house is normally in bad shape and sells as is. Sometime a cash payment by the buyer is required as the bank will not remortgage. If the buyer tries to mortgage they can't get one because of the condition of the house. It's sometimes very hard to buy a forclosure if you don't have cash. Even if you buy it you can't get a CO until a laundry list of repairs and upgrades are made. You need more cash to complete those. Sometimes it just isn't worth it. Just easier to buy another house.
Skitch November 30, 2012 at 04:02 AM
@ Ric the dates of the MS and HS are incorrect. I was in the MS in 71 (6th gr.) left there in 74, went to the HS in 74 (9-12th gr) and graduated in 78. The MS never closed. Memorial/Strable school (my elem. sch.) closed on Riverton Rd. and was leased out to BCC for awhile. When the lease was up they took over the building again for the after school program, adminishtration, the BOE, Project Challenge, Special Ed offices etc and various other things. They also consolidated elementry schools when they leased out memorial school. They made New Albany school k-3 and Rush 3-5. But by doing this they had to pay busing costs as well. I believe the class of 1978 was the largest class to enter the HS at 450+ kids. We were supposed to be put on split sessions that year because the school and the cafeteria were too small for all of us. The population declined over the years after i graduated but i believe it is now going up again slowly but steadily. Older families are moving out and younger families with kids are moving in. While I don't have the exact #'s, I do have kids in the MS and HS and i have seen their class sizes increase over the years. Even if they regionalized the schools with other districts coming in to Cinna, the sending district has to pay for the services/tuition to our district. Other districts, Palmyra/Riverton/Edgewater have been trying for years to come to Cinna without success.
John December 02, 2012 at 01:51 AM
@Skitch, when I said I knew about 5 houses vacant I was only talking about my block and to top it all off no one cuts the lawn, leaves are all over the place and I have to do the job and its not right....If according to U other schools are better maintanined than ours we have a problem, where is the maintenance people and the budget for such stuff should be part of the school boards plans....someone is not doing there job but according to U our schools are great.....really, if thats the case then we would have no vacant houses.....get my point....When my wife passed away I went to the assessor with facts and figures but that does not help people who do not know that our houses are not assessed on market values, we have been paying way more than we should be paying for taxes and this is all over the state on NJ....get real ok enjoy the day....
Jane Hill December 02, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Ric (no last name) has a problem with his facts...again. Where DO you get your information, Ric?
Ric December 02, 2012 at 02:46 AM
Let me ask you again since you did not answer the first time: So Jane, are you saying money does not matter to you? Do you think residents should pay whatever the school district wants? Money should be no object? If that is the case, why aren't you living in a Moorestown mansion and sending your grand’s to Westfield Friends? Nice talking to ya. Bye
cinnalovin' December 02, 2012 at 03:57 AM
It is ridiculous how grown adults are fighting over this. Yes, adults pay taxes for the school, but they don't go to it. The school does need many repairs, an important one being the two hallways being connected. In all seriousness you all don't know what the school really needs because you don't go to it. Maybe the adults should ask the kids their opinion instead of acting like kids. Nice talking to ya. Bye
John December 02, 2012 at 04:52 PM
@cinnalovin', this is not fighting its a discussion about the schools and the uncanny way of getting more money for education....they want to sell space for advertising, now they say the state has money, next they want to finance a bond issue and lo and behold the taxpayer is footing the bill....Education is not the only thing that brings in people low taxes and FAIR MARKET VALUE assessments are also the key to things....an example, a house on Manor Drive is valued at 289,000 but assessed at 344,600 how do U account for the difference in this in taxes...I think U should go back to school and learn MATH, thanks for chatting with us. enjoy the day
Skitch December 02, 2012 at 10:38 PM
@Pundit and some of the others. I don't think the answer is to replace the schools at all. My opinion is we can update and modernize what we already have. And again, the repairs don't all have to be done at one time. Lay the groundwork now and plan ahead. Do the work in phases. Do what has to be done now to keep the schools running efficiently. My feeling is that the schools need a face lift and obviously a replacement of some core systems just like your own homes need from time to time. Your going to have to bite the bullet at one point or another and just do it. The longer they wait the more expensive the project will be in the future. The costs are not going to go down, only up. I would much rather pay less now than more later. By doing this project in phases over the next couple of years allows them to work in the costs and save for them in the budget so the money is there when it comes time to start the next phase. Would you rather have the schools start falling apart and the district shipping our kids off to attend other schools? By not doing the repairs or the upgrades this is exactly what will happen. Almost happened to the Palmyra students a couple of times and some of our other adjoining towns. Other districts have been putting band aids on their schools to keep them open for a couple of more years.
agent itchy December 03, 2012 at 03:52 PM
home rule is one of the least efficient methods of delivering education services. with more than 600 separate districts it's no wonder NJ pays the most per student in the US. NJ should abandon the 600 district model and form roughly 100 regional districts. brand new education campuses similar to small college campuses would serve students in six to eight municipalities and the costs would be spread out among the roughly 20,000-30,000 homes. the 600 superintendents all earn over $100k with most districts also using assistant superintendents. There's about $100 million in savings just from the roughly 1,200 administrators, and trust me, they all have a staff and many drive district automobiles. the 600 superintendent model is insane and needs to be addressed. consolidate our public services or continue to cough-up higher taxes.
John December 19, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Oh boy, in the last few comments people are saying different years for the schools....They are made of stone and bricks and mortar and should last....amazing how we are so fast to build new ones...oh well thats life here great....We are supposed to have budgets right so how do we always need more money....Oh the new math...

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