• November 5, 2019 Bond Referendum Q&A
    Updated: 10/18/19
    Scroll to the end for the most recently added Q&As. 

    Follow on Twitter @karimcgann@FlemRarSchools & on Facebook at Flemington-Raritan School District.


    WHAT IS A BOND REFERENDUM?

    A bond referendum is an election conducted by a Board of Education seeking voter approval to undertake capital improvement projects to a school and to finance such projects through a long term loan (a bond).

     

    WHY DO WE NEED TO HAVE A BOND REFERENDUM?

    A bond referendum is the only way that a Board can borrow money to finance significant capital improvements over a long period of time. Otherwise, significant improvements can only be made in very small increments over multiple budget cycles.

     

    WHY CAN’T THE SCHOOL DISTRICT INCLUDE THESE PROJECTS IN ITS ANNUAL SCHOOL BUDGET?

    The annual school budget currently has a 2% budget cap on the local tax levy. Given this restraint, it is very difficult to fit projects of this magnitude in an annual operating budget without harming the excellent academic programs that our students deserve.  Because there is a “cap” on how much the regular operating budget can increase each year, major, costly replacements cannot be undertaken through the annual budget.

    Additionally once installed, such major replacements last a long time, many years in fact.  The Board would like to borrow for such improvements and spread the cost of the improvement over the generations that will use it rather than have the current taxpayers pay for it in one year.

     

    HOW WILL THE PROJECTS BE PRESENTED ON THE BALLOT?

    The projects will be presented in two proposals.  Proposals are listed in the box on the right. Proposal 1 must pass for Proposal 2 to proceed.  VOTERS ARE ENCOURAGED TO VOTE ON BOTH PROPOSALS.

     

    WHAT PROJECTS ARE INCLUDED IN THE REFERENDUM?   

    The improvements set forth below are the general scope of work to be undertaken as part of the referendum.  They will be presented in two separate Proposals on the ballot: 

    Proposal #1: Renovations and upgrades to upgrade Barley Sheaf Elementary, Copper Hill Elementary, Francis A. Desmares Elementary, J.P. Case Middle, Reading-Fleming Intermediate and Robert Hunter Elementary Schools including: 

    • security upgrades and improvements including cameras, equipment, communication system and door/alarm upgrades; 
    • site improvements including parking lot upgrades, sidewalk, curb, fencing and drainage improvements;
    • roof replacement at Barley Sheaf Elementary, Copper Hill Elementary, Francis A. Desmares Elementary, Reading-Fleming Intermediate and Robert Hunter Elementary Schools; and
    • window replacement and building envelope repairs at Reading-Fleming Intermediate School.


    Proposal #2: HVAC upgrades including air-conditioning and humidity control measures at Barley Sheaf Elementary, Copper Hill Elementary, Francis A. Desmares Elementary, Reading-Fleming Intermediate and Robert Hunter Elementary Schools at a cost not to exceed $20,308,019.

     

    IS THE STATE PAYING FOR A PORTION OF THE PROJECT COSTS? 

    Yes.  While the State has agreed to pay for 40% of the costs of the projects through “debt service aid,” for purposes of tax impact, we have assumed that the State will only provide funding for 34% of the costs of the projects. (see below)

     

    This State funding is ONLY available if the voters approve the bond referendum.  

    It should be noted that in the “Estimated Tax Impact” set forth below, the Board has conservatively assumed that the State will only be paying 85% of the awarded aid percentage which is 34% instead of 40%.  This assumption is based on past State practices and ensures that our estimated calculations are on the conservative side. The final, actual tax impact will be passed on exactly as the final State funding occurs.

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    WHY ARE THE PROJECTS BEING PROPOSED NOW?

    Many of the systems that are proposed to be replaced are past or at the end of their lives (roof systems, windows, life-safety systems, HVAC systems).  These systems are essential to the operation of our school.   

    The State is currently officering facility aid funding which will capture approximately 40% of all project costs. The School District applied for and received approval for such State funding in May, June, and July of 2019. See below under “Is the State paying a Portion of Project Costs?”  The District can only receive this State funding if the referendum passes.

    Current borrowing rates are very low.

    By financing the projects, the District will avoid costly “band-aid” fixes in future budgets.  Over the last several years the School District has expended significant operating funds to provide short term repairs to its aging facility.

     The School District is seeking to invest in needed, current safety, and security enhancements.

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    WHY ARE THE PROJECTS NECESSARY?

    Maintaining our school buildings for current and future use is a basic responsibility of the District. Our students need and deserve a healthy, safe atmosphere for learning. The Board of Education annually budgets for ongoing maintenance, however the scope of these projects are to extensive to fund within a single year. The preliminary specifics of each project are as follows:

    Barley Sheaf Elementary School

    • Partial Roof Replacement: remove existing roof system, drains and trim and provide new multi-layered built up roof with new drainage systems, flashings and trim for watertight conditions.
    • Site and drainage improvements: new overlay with striping.  Some pavement will be reconstructed. Replace curbing and walkways where required.
    • Security upgrades: additional interior and exterior security cameras, new phone system with paging, public address, outside calling and emergency communication with lock-down and emergency communication system. Outside door “ajar” sensors.
    • HVAC upgrades: New cooling and dehumidification systems to appropriately cool and dehumidify the school.

    Copper Hill Elementary School

    • Roof Replacement: remove existing roof system, drains and trim and provide new multi-layered built up roof with new drainage systems, flashings and trim for watertight conditions.
    • Site and drainage improvements: new overlay with striping.  Some pavement will be reconstructed. Replace curbing and walkways as required. Replace canopy columns with concrete bases.
    • Security upgrades: additional interior and exterior security cameras, new phone system with paging, public address, outside calling and emergency communication with lock-down and emergency communication system. Outside door “ajar” sensors.
    • HVAC upgrades: New cooling and dehumidification systems to appropriately cool and dehumidify the school.

    Francis A. Desmares Elementary School

    • Partial Roof Replacement (single story wings): remove existing roof system, drains and trim and provide new multi-layered built up roof with new drainage systems, flashings and trim for watertight conditions.
    • Site and drainage improvements: new overlay with striping.  Some pavement will be reconstructed. Replace curbing and walkways as required. Supplemental drainage.
    • Security upgrades: additional interior and exterior security cameras, new phone system with paging, public address, outside calling and emergency communication with lock-down and emergency communication system. Outside door “ajar” sensors.
    • HVAC upgrades: New cooling and dehumidification systems to appropriately cool and dry.

    Robert Hunter Elementary School

    • Roof Replacement: remove existing roof system, drains and trim and provide new multi-layered built up roof with new drainage systems, flashings and trim for watertight conditions.
    • Site and drainage improvements: new overlay with striping.  Some pavement will be reconstructed. Replace curbing and walkways as required. 
    • Security upgrades: additional interior and exterior security cameras, new phone system with paging, public address, outside calling and emergency communication with lock-down and emergency communication system. Outside door “ajar” sensors.
    • HVAC upgrades: New cooling and dehumidification systems to appropriately cool and dehumidify the school.

    Reading-Fleming Intermediate School

    • Partial Roof Replacement: remove existing roof system, drains and trim and provide new multi-layered built up roof with new drainage systems, flashings and trim for watertight conditions.
    • Site and drainage improvements: new overlay with striping.  Some pavement will be reconstructed. Replace curbing and walkways as required. Rebuild concrete areaway light wells with new guardrails Replace loading dock. Replace stairs and ramp. Replace fencing and gates.
    • Window replacement: replace windows with architectural grade, aluminum windows.
    • Security upgrades: additional interior and exterior security cameras, new phone system with paging, public address, outside calling and emergency communication with lock-down and emergency communication system. Outside door “ajar” sensors.
    • HVAC upgrades: New cooling and dehumidification systems to appropriately cool and dehumidify the school.

    J.P. Case Middle School.

    • Site and drainage improvements: new overlay with striping.  Some pavement will be reconstructed. Replace curbing and walkways as required. 
    • Security upgrades: additional interior and exterior security cameras, new phone system with paging, public address, outside calling and emergency communication with lock-down and emergency communication system. Outside door “ajar” sensors.

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    Would the school district still receive state debt service aid if the voters defeat the million dollar referendum?

          No.  If the referendum is defeated, the state will not provide the school district with the state debt service aid.

     

    What is the total capital cost of the project?  

    The estimated total project costs are "all in" capital cost, including all construction and related costs including all architectural, engineering, legal, accounting and debt incurrence costs of issuance. The projects outlined in Proposal 1 are budgeted at $21,755,617. The projects outlined in Proposal 2 are budgeted at $20,308,019.

     

    WHAT IS THE ESTIMATED TAX IMPACT OF THE PROJECT ON FLEMINGTON BOROUGH RESIDENTS?

    Flemington Borough

    Average Impact per $100,000 of Assessed Value

    Average Impact on the Average Household ($265,296)

    Question 1:

    Safety/Security/Structure

    $0.022

    $4.95 per month or $59.39 per year

    Question 2:

         HVAC

    $0.021

    $4.61 per month or $55.27 per year

    Total for Both questions

    $0.043

    $9.56 per month or $114.67/year

     

    WHAT IS THE ESTIMATED TAX IMPACT OF THE PROJECT ON RARITAN TOWNSHIP RESIDENTS?

    Raritan Township

    Average Impact per $100,000 of Assessed Value

    Average Impact on the Average Household ($399,978)

    Question 1:

    Safety/Security/Structure

    $0.035

    $11.66 per month or $139.96 per year

    Question 2:

          HVAC

    $0.033

    $10.85 per month or $130.26 per year

    Total for Both Questions

    $0.068

    $22.52 per month or $270.23 per year

     

    WHY CAN'T THE DISTRICT PURCHASE PLUG IN AIR CONDITIONERS OR WALL UNITS FOR AIR CONDITIONING?

    Wall units and plug-in air conditioning would require costly upgrades to the electrical system in our schools.  Our buildings were not designed to have wall units or plug in air conditioning in every classroom.  Using wall units or plug in air conditioning in all classrooms would overload the current electrical system.

     

    WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?

    Please e-mail either Kari McGann, Superintendent of Schools, at kmcgann@frsd.k12.nj.us , or Tim Bart, Board of Education President at tbart@frsd.k12.nj.us if you need any further information regarding the projects.  You may also visit the Flemington-Raritan Regional School District website at https://www.frsd.k12.nj.us/Page/5123

     

    WHAT IS THE ANTICIPATED TIMELINE OF THE PROJECTS?

    If the referendum were to pass, it might be necessary to stagger the projects over two summers and a full school year to accommodate a carefully phased construction duration. If both proposals pass, the construction period may extend over two summers and two full school years.

     

    WHEN WILL THE BOARD PRESENT THE PROPOSED PROJECTS TO THE VOTERS?

    The Board will present the proposed projects to the School District voters on Election Day, November 5, 2019.

     

    Added October 17, 2019:

    Why did you split out the two bond issues?  If the priority was the air conditioning--as it appears in all the information it is--why would you have not put the windows and roofing together with this in one bond proposal so that passing just one issue would take care of the 'structural' issues involved with the buildings? 

    The Superintendent made the recommendation, after receiving guidance from our bond counselors, that two questions allow the voters to have choice in the referendum questions and choice for what community members believed was important.  The referendum speaks to a multiple request:  1) safety, security, and structure improvements (i.e, roofing, updated emergency communication system, additional cameras, door alarm sensors, window replacements at RFIS) 2) indoor air quality (i.e., air conditioning and dehumidification.)  All are important.  The air conditioning cannot be installed without roof replacements therefore roofs must come before air conditioning.  I encourage you to attend the next Board of Education meeting where the Superintendent will be sharing drone footage of building rooftops to demonstrate specific needs for the replacement of roofs.  Specific highlights will be shown that indicate previous repairs and roof replacements for sections and the work left to replace.

     

    If the electrical wiring in the buildings is so old an inefficient that it cannot even support window air conditioning units, wouldn't this be more important to replace than the HVAC system?  Is there not a fear that wiring this may cause an electrical fire so should this not be replaced first?  Was the cost of completing the rewiring considered together with portable units?  Or is the plan to place a new bond to replace the electrical system at some point in the near future?  (I am concerned that if the wiring is so frail it cannot support modern era window ac units--it is really in bad shape--from a safety perspective this is most concerning)

    It is incorrect to state that the wiring is old and inefficient.  The buildings were not wired to support the electrical current to support air conditioning.  Just as older homes cannot handle the amps that would require a window air conditioner in every window, our older buildings cannot support the amps to have a window air conditioner in every classroom.  There is no safety hazard for our current electrical system.  There is no plans for a future bond. The current referendum encapsulated the costs for wiring and duct work for air conditioning in buildings.  RFIS is the building that is the most costly for all improvements required at around 13 million.  Each elementary building is between 6 million and just over 7 million.

     

    All of the information loudly declares that the state will fund 40% of these bonds--but when you read things carefully--as I have--it is clearly stated that this is an estimate and that it might be 35% --so who pays the 5% that the state doesn't pay?  And what if the state only provides 20% or 10% of the funding--where does the funding come from?  Governor Murphy has already cut the amount of funding Hunterdon County Schools receive so I am concerned this could happen again.  (For what it's worth--the state funding comes from a large number of Raritan Twp taxpayers through the large amount of NJ Income tax we pay so for many of us, we are funding much of this 40%--if it is indeed 40%).

    The law provides that the State will pay 40% of all eligible costs of a project.  In our instance,  all of your costs are eligible so the approval letters from the State provide that they will pay 40% of the costs. As such, the State agrees to pay 40% of the school’s debt service on the bonds.  So, theoretically, if the School District has an annual $100 debt service payment (bond payment) the State would contribute $40 and the remaining $60 of the debt service would come from the taxpayers.  That is the law, which is why on our information we provide to community members I have to list what the law states.

    Now, let’s look at reality.  When the State does its annual budget it appropriates the amount that it “owes” school districts with respect to its contribution  of 40% of the debt service.  As the State budget has been under stress, over the last 11 years or so, the State has only appropriated 85% of its 40% obligation – which comes to 34%.  So essentially, the State is not fully funding debt service aid. So, for purposes of the tax impact we conservatively assume that the State will not fully fund debt service aid and will continue to fund it at 85% of 40% which is 34%.

     

    The bond information notes that many of these 'major replacements last a long time, many years in fact' and that the board wants to 'spread the coast 'over the generations that will use it'.  These are 20 year bonds--some of the repairs such as security cameras, equipment, communication systems, door/alarms, parking lot repairs, sidewalk repairs--will surely not survive 20 years and frankly not sure that HVAC or roof replacement will either--yet residents--generations of taxpayers--will be paying these over 20 years and will likely need to pay more for replacements before these bonds are paid off.  Is this really the best fiduciary responsibility the school board can offer us?  (For example, Copper Hill was opened in 1996--so is getting a new roof when original is only 23 years old--a long time to be paying on a roof that will then need replacing again)

    The District has made repairs to the Copper Hill roof.  This will be shown at the next Board of Education meeting with drone footage.  I encourage you to attend.  A school roof lifetime is about twenty years.

     

    The board is making improvements to all the district schools but over 20 years there is a likely possibility that not all of these schools will still be required as the number of students fall.  What is the projection for 20 years from now--when we may still be paying for these bonds and may have closed one or more of these schools?  Please provide me the boards estimates. 

    The District's enrollment has held steady this year.  Housing is being built in our community.  We do not expect to close any schools.  In fact, our elementary school Francis A. Desmares is almost at capacity for enrollment.   Enrollment information will be shared at the November BOE meeting. 

     

    Added October 18, 2019:

    Would you please tell me the years the school board increased or did not increase the budget by 2% each year?

    The district has always increased the budget by the amount allowed by law without asking for a vote from the community.  Previous Superintendents have advised the Board to maintain the 2% tax levy.  It is important to know that over the past two years the state has decreased our state aid as a result of the school reform funding act passed in 2008 by Governor Murphy.  Flemington-Raritan Regional School District received $359,218 less during the 2018-2019 school year and $225,571 (down 3.73%) during the 2019-2020 school year.   We are projected to lose 1.9 million cumulative by the year 2025. You can find more about the school reform funding act passed in 2008 by Governor Murphy here and here.  Hunterdon County School District as a whole community is projected to lose almost 10 million dollars as a result of the school reform funding act.

     

    I suspect that the reason that Raritan Twp has a much greater increase in the amount we will be paying is based on the way the district was configured, but surely those of you who represent us understand that this bond is not an insignificant increase for many of us--there are numerous houses that are assessed well over $500K and this increase is not minor.  Would you please explain to me why our tax rate is so much higher for this shared school system?

    I have contacted Mr. Jeff Kuhl, Mayor of Raritan Township for a response.  In the meantime you might find this document helpful; the New Jersey Homeowner's Guide to Property Taxes Toolkit published by the New jersey Realtors and NJCPA here

    From Raritan Township:  "The split is based on total assessed valuation. Raritan Township has more homes with higher assessed values than the borough, therefore Raritan Township picks up a bigger piece of the pie.  In municipal finance, as a rule of thumb, just like anytime you want to spend money, other than budgeted appropriations which were approved by a resolution, you need to do an ordinance. Any time debt or borrowing money is concerned, rule of thumb is, total assessed valuation comes into play." 

     

    How does the board plan to fund needed repairs and expected teacher salary increases following these bond proposals going forward?

    The Superintendent, along with the Business Administrator, in collaboration with the Board of Education, expects to fund the needed repairs using the specifics outlined in the 42 million dollar referendum.  Expected teacher salaries cannot be funding through the funds of a referendum.  Slide 8 on the presentation here provides specifics of the cost per each building.  The State of New Jersey is contributing $14 million of the $42 million referendum costs if questions 1 and 2 pass on the referendum.  Teacher salary increases must come from our general fund, and not those funds generated by the referendum.


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Last Modified on October 18, 2019