Accelify Blog

4 Salem County Districts May See Grant Funds if Meet Requirement (NJ)

July 29, 2010

Four Salem County school districts are eligible for a portion of $270 million in facilities grants funding announced Wednesday by the state Department of Education, but there’s one requirement.

Districts will only receive the money if they can come up with a local share – either through their regular budget or through a referendum – to complement it.

The Christie administration announced that 177 school districts are eligible for the state funds toward the cost of 740 capital maintenance and construction projects.

Among those districts are Lower Alloways Creek, Penns Grove-Carneys Point, Pennsville and Pittsgrove.

"Efficient, up-to-date school facilities are a priority of this administration and part of ensuring New Jersey children receive a quality education," Gov. Chris Christie said. "These grants will fund critical projects across our state, helping to improve the learning environments for our students and providing necessary support to districts by easing their local property tax burden."<br /&g t;

Grants are approved by the DOE in fixed annual allocations based on a prioritization process that considers critical needs such as health, safety, special education, renewal of existing buildings and overcrowding. Types of construction include capital maintenance, renovation, expansion and new facilities.

The Penns Grove-Carneys Point Regional School District would receive the largest chunk of funding.

According to data from the DOE, the district could receive approximately $10.9 million for projects including a new middle school; new staff and visitor parking spots along with stormwater improvements at Paul W. Carleton and Lafayette-Pershing elementary schools; and science lab and auditorium upgrades along with a complete upgrade and replacement of the fire alarm system at Penns Grove High School.

But the district would only receive the funding if, either through the budget or referendum, it can pay the local share required which amounts to approximately $3.9 million.

The goods news is, for the most part, the district does have the money allocated and was already planning on beginning work.

Superintendent Dr. Joseph A. Massare said the district will begin working on all but one project next summer. Plans to build a brand new middle school will remain on hold.

"They did give us money to build a whole new middle school, but the figures don’t seem to be correct," said Massare. "The state figures were much less than the figures our architect has, and we’re wary about it, so we’re holding off on that one for now."

The district is currently finishing other partially state-funded projects – air condi tioning in the Lafayette-Pershing School, and replacing bleachers, installing new windows, and redoing the gym floor and tennis courts at the high school.

Massare said those projects will be complete by September.

"So we’re already doing well, but we were ecstatic to know this new funding plan was still alive after the governor’s cuts," he said.

Massare said the district hopes to begin work next year.

"This funding will help us to maintain safety, and increase and help our school to use a 21st-century methodology of teaching and learning," he said.

The Pennsville School District could receive $844,866 in state funding, but Superintendent Dr. Mark T. Jones doesn’t think the district will be able to come up with the required $1.076 million local share this year.

The designated projects include the renovation of four science labs at Pennsville Memorial High School and roof replacement at the Penn Beach Elementary School.

Jones said Wednesday that the district has put the science labs renovations on hold. He added the district doesn’t currently have the funds to do the work, but said the project might be re-evaluated after officials see how things work out in terms of state aid and the new 2-percent, state-imposed budget cap recently signed into law.

Jones said once the district gets a clearer view on how things will go, it will better be able to plan the work.

Business Administrator John Recchinti said the application for the Penn Beach roof project was made around last January. He added the district will have to look into how it will fit int o the budget, but said it is likely it would have to be built into next year’s budget.

Recchinti said he will be following up with the state to get more details on this funding.

The Lower Alloways Creek School District could receive $1.5 million, with its local share that it would have to provide being $2.3 million, for HVAC and electrical work, exterior doors, VAT flooring, and security lighting upgrades.

The district chief school administrator could not be reached for comment.

The Pittsgrove School District could receive $542,986.

Superintendent Henry Bermann said they don’t currently have money budgeted to pay the local share required – $444,514.

"We do not have the money budgeted at this point, but there are ways such as bonding or alternative revenue to cover the cost," he said.

Bermann said he cannot make a final decision on the funding until the board of education is notified, and the next board meeting is in August.

But whether the district decides to use the grant money or not, Bermann said the roof needs to be fixed.

"The roof is at least 15 years old and it has outlived its useful life," said Bermann. "It is leaky in spots and it has become a problem that has gotten progressively worse over time."

Bermann said he’s glad the district is eligible for this funding because, with the state going through a financial crisis, they weren’t sure if they would be receiving any money from the state.

In the end, Bermann said he i s glad the district applied.

"If you don’t ask, you will never get it," he said.