Posted 09/10/2018: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)

Posted 09/10/2018:  Please'click' this link to download FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs), EPS REFERENDUM '18.

 

Ewing Public Schools
Referendum FAQs

September 5, 2018


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
EPS REFERENDUM ‘18
VOTE, Tuesday, October 2, 2018


On Tuesday, October 2nd, The Ewing Public Schools will ask the community to vote on a $59.3 million bond referendum that will create safe, healthier, and more modern schools to provide a foundation for life for every student and build a stronger community. EPS Referendum ’18 projects would address the district’s physical plant needs, as many of the systems and facilities in the district are at, or near, the end of their useful life, have operational issues, or are no longer serviceable. Over the years, the district has diligently maintained the systems and facilities, however, as is the case with aging homes and appliances, maintenance has become more time-consuming, expensive and, in many cases, parts no longer are available.


The Ewing Public Schools administrative team reached out to its internal and external stakeholders to discuss the need for improvements among the district’s five schools beginning in the spring of 2016. The team engaged with parents, students, faculty, community groups, and township officials to identify necessary improvements in its schools. The team, along with the architect and engineering firm, reviewed all of the suggested improvements and created a list for consideration; EPS Referendum’18 projects are grouped into three areas:


• Enhancing School Safety and Security
• Providing Healthier and More Sustainable Schools
• Improving Instructional Space and Enhancing Student Facilities


New Jersey debt service aid funding is available for 91.3% of the referendum projects, which could reduce the district’s cost by $20 to $23 million. State aid is available only if voters approve the referendum. It is not available for capital improvement projects completed within the annual budget.


Contents
Creating Safer, Healthier, and More Modern Schools 
Enhancing School Safety & Security 
Providing Healthier and More Sustainable Schools 
Improving Instructional Space and Enhancing Student Facilities 
Favorable Financial Factors
Voter Information 
Ewing Public Schools
Referendum FAQs
Additional Information 


Creating Safer, Healthier, and More Modern Schools

 

What is a School Bond Referendum?
A school bond referendum is a special election giving voters the power to decide if a school district can raise funds for construction and renovation projects which cannot be funded through the district’s annual budget. The bond enables the district to pay for improvements over a longer period of time, similar to a home mortgage. Additionally, in New Jersey, many of these projects qualify for up to 40% state aid, which is not available if the projects are completed within the annual budget.


Why hold a Referendum Now?
The referendum election gives voters in Ewing Township the opportunity to approve or disapprove of the use of municipal bonds to finance the much-needed improvements for Ewing Public Schools’ facilities. Before scheduling EPS Referendum ‘18 for Tuesday, October 2, 2018, the district administration and board of education informed and engaged the community to determine and set priorities. Additionally, recently retired debt, relatively low interest rates, available state aid, and stable construction costs combined with the escalating costs of maintaining aging facilities all make this a good time to hold a bond referendum election.


What role did community input and facility assessment play in deciding to hold the referendum?
The Ewing Public Schools district administrative team began reaching out to its internal and external stakeholders to discuss the need for improvements among the district’s five schools in the spring of 2016. The team attended back-to-school nights, community festivals, faculty meetings, and engaged with community groups and township officials to identify needs and improvements in its schools. The team, along with the architect and engineering firm, reviewed all of the suggested improvements and created a list for consideration. The Board Facilities Committee reviewed and prioritized the information, which was presented and discussed at the BOE’s Referendum Retreat.


This assessment confirmed that many of the systems and facilities in the district are at, or near, the end of their useful life, have operational issues, or are no longer serviceable. Although the district has done all it can to maintain the systems, etc., maintenance is becoming more time-consuming, more expensive, and parts no longer are available. As noted in a public presentation, the poor condition of the identified systems and facilities “adversely affect the educational process.”
Ewing Public Schools
Referendum FAQs

How will the referendum benefit Ewing Public Schools’ students and staff?
All of the projects included in the EPS Referendum ‘18 are designed to directly benefit the educational environment and process of the Ewing Public Schools. Projects under the referendum are designed to enhance school safety and security, provide healthier and more sustainable schools, and improve instructional space and enhance student facilities. The ultimate goal of the referendum is to create safer, healthier, and more modern schools to provide a foundation for life for students and the community!


What are the projects included in the referendum?
The projects are grouped into three primary areas:


      *Enhancing School Safety and Security
      *Providing Healthier and More Sustainable Schools
      *Improving Instructional Space and Enhancing Student Facilities


Will any other renovations/improvements be necessary in the near future?
The district and its professional consultants have worked diligently to identify the renovations and improvements necessary to support Ewing Public Schools through the life of the loan (estimated 20+ years). The district DOES NOT anticipate any additional major renovations and improvements in the foreseeable future. Of course, as is the case with community members’ own homes, routine maintenance will be required for typical wear and tear on the facilities.


Enhancing School Safety & Security


How will the referendum projects enhance school safety and security?
These projects will include:


      *Modernizing the fire/distress alarm systems in all district schools.
      *Creating a communications/alert system, district-wide.
      *Expanding and improving the district camera system.
      *Adding security enhancements for interior and exterior doors for schools, district-wide.
      *Restoring and/or replacing the roofs for all schools, district-wide.


Providing Healthier and More Sustainable Schools


How will the referendum projects provide healthier and more sustainable schools?
These projects will include:

      *Revitalizing all environmental systems and processes in schools, district-wide.
      *Air conditioning Ewing High School’s main and auxiliary gymnasiums.


What benefits will these projects provide?
The benefits the district will reap from these projects include enhanced air filtration, greater humidity control, healthier classrooms, improved cost efficiencies, and superior sustainability.


What is involved in revitalizing the district’s environmental systems and processes?
Revitalizing the district’s environmental systems and processes will include:


      *Replacing the chillers at Ewing High School, Fisher Middle, Antheil Elementary, and Parkway Elementary.
      *Replacing hot water boilers, and upgrading heat pumps.
      *Upgrading ventilators, humidifiers, and exhaust systems district-wide.
      *Adding air filtration (UV or Plasma).
      *Upgrading electrical systems to support new equipment.
      *Adding de-stratification fans where appropriate.
      *Converting selected electric equipment to gas.
      *Adding combined heat and power (micro turbine).
      *Rewiring for & installation of automated temperature control system district-wide.
      *Adding new equipment to meet high efficiency standards.
      *Upgrading motors for greater efficiency.
      *Upgrading to high efficiency transformers.


Improving Instructional Space and Enhancing Student Facilities


How will the referendum projects improve instructional space and enhance student facilities?
These projects will include:


      *Renovating Ewing High School Performing Arts Auditorium.
      *Modernizing Ewing High School art, music, and technology classrooms, and elementary school media centers.
      *Improving student parking, traffic flow, and access at Ewing High School.
      *Enhancing Fisher Middle School and Ewing High School athletic facilities: creating district tennis center, renovating Fisher          Middle School/Ewing High School gymnasiums, improving Ewing High School athletic grounds.


What are some of the details of the referendum projects related to instructional space and student facilities?
Some of the details include:

      *Improvements to the Ewing High School Athletic Complex, including: - Irrigation, new backstops, ball stopper - Toilet                room with water cooler - Scoreboards and concrete work
      *Renovating the floors and bleachers at Ewing High School and Fisher Middle School gymnasiums.
      *Adding approximately 200 parking spots at Ewing High School.
      *Replacing corridor lockers at Fisher Middle and Antheil Elementary Schools.
      *Renovating toilet rooms district-wide.
      *Fixing the surface on the running track and the scoreboard at Fisher Middle School.


How will the district get approximately 200 new parking spots at Ewing High School?
The new spots will come from moving the tennis courts to the Antheil Auxiliary Athletic Complex.


Favorable Financial Factors

 

School Tax Impact on a $59.298 million School Bond Issuance

Fiscal Year

Description

Change in Tax Impact for School Debt

2017-18

School Tax Change due to expiring debt

-$156

2018-19

School Tax Change due to expiring debt

-$45

2019-20

School Tax Change due to addition of new debt

$75

2020-21

School Tax Change due to expiring debt

-$59

                                                                                                 Aggregate TAX SAVINGS over 4 years = $185                         

What is the total cost of renovations and upgrades?


The total cost of the renovations and upgrades will be $59.3 million; but 91.3% of the projects included in the referendum are eligible for up to 40% of New Jersey debt service aid funding. The debt service aid could reduce the amount the district will need to repay by approximately $20 to $23 million.


So, the district is eligible for state aid?
Yes. The district is eligible for state aid for portions of the project. State aid is available only if voters approve the referendum. It is not available for capital improvement projects completed within the annual budget.


What will be the financial impact of the referendum be on residents?
The district and community are in a very favorable financial situation with regard to the tax impact of the referendum. The expiration of debt led to a tax decrease in 2017-2018. The Board and administration campaigned for an increase in state aid, as a result school taxes remained flat for 2018-19. Furthermore, the district’s existing debt will continue to disappear over the next couple of years, putting the district in a great place to absorb the cost of the referendum projects with little discernable impact. Also, interest rates are historically low and increased efficiency and sustainability will translate to future budgetary savings. Finally, it should be noted that State aid only is available if voters approve the referendum. It is not available for capital improvement projects that would have to be completed within the annual budget.


What are the eligible costs?
Eligible costs associated with a referendum generally mean the budgeted costs of renovation and rehabilitation of facilities related to education purposes; 91.3% of the projects included in EPS Referendum ’18 are eligible for up to 40% of New Jersey debt service aid funding.


What other favorable financial factors are related to the referendum?
In addition to 91.3% of the projects being eligible for up to 40% New Jersey debt service aid funding that will replace disappearing district debt, interest rates continue to be at historic lows, increased efficiency/sustainability likely will translate to future budget savings, and energy savings projects are eligible for future incentive grants.


How will the proposed referendum affect taxes for senior citizens?
Seniors and people with disabilities may be protected from future property tax increases by applying for the Property Tax Reimbursement Program (Senior Freeze). Seniors and people with disabilities must meet eligibility requirements, which can be found on the NJ Division of Taxation website:
http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/ptr/index.shtml. For more information, go to the website, or call the NJ Division of Taxation at 1-800-882- 6597.


Will the referendum affect the amount of annual state aid given to the Ewing Public Schools?
No, EPS Referendum ‘18 will not affect the annual state aid given to the Ewing Public Schools. The annual aid given is a combination of transportation aid and pupil aid, and is completely unrelated to referendums.


What happens if the total cost of the projects is less than the amount passed in the October 2nd referendum?
State law requires the district to return all unused bond proceeds to the taxpayer in the form of tax relief. The district is not permitted to utilize the bond proceeds for projects other than those approved by voters in the referendum.

What if the actual costs of the projects exceed the amount approved in the October 2nd referendum?
State law prohibits the district from spending more than that stipulated in the bond referendum approved by the voters. The district believes the overall plan includes prudent estimates. In the unlikely event that actual costs of the projects exceed the gross bond proceeds, the district will search for more efficient means of achieving the referendum’s overall objective and/or reduce the scope of work. The Ewing Public Schools Board of Education stresses cost-efficiency with its professionals.


Will the renovation projects be put out for bid?
Yes. The renovation project contracts will be awarded to the lowest responsible bidders.


Can bonds be called early?
Yes. Most New Jersey school debt is structured with an early-call provision to enable the district to pay off the debt early, or to refinance the debt if interest rates drop.


Voter Information


When will the community vote on this referendum?
The referendum VOTE will take place on Tuesday, October 2, 2018.


What can we expect to see at the polls on October 2, 2018?
Those who are registered will be asked to vote yes or no on the issuance of bonds to finance school facility renovations for the Ewing Public Schools.


When do voters have to be registered in order to vote on the referendum?
In order to participate in the referendum, residents must be registered to vote by September 11, 2018. Mail-in voter registration forms are available at each school, in the main office, and also can be downloaded from the district website, in English and Spanish, and from the county clerk’s office, or the website at http://www.state.nj.us/state/elections/voting-information.html.


NOTE: Already registered? There’s no need to register again. You will be able to vote in the October 2nd, referendum special election.


Are Vote by Mail ballots available?
Yes. Vote by Mail ballots are available, and can be found online at: http://www.state.nj.us/state/elections/form_pdf/vote-by-mail-forms/vote-mail-ballot-mercer-english.pdf for English, and http://www.state.nj.us/state/elections/form_pdf/vote-by-mail-forms/vote-mail-ballot-mercer-spanish.pdf in Spanish.


Additional Information


Where can I find additional information about the referendum?
Additional information about EPS Referendum ’18 can be found on the district website at http://www.ewing.k12.nj.us, and on a Facebook page created specifically for the referendum @EwingSchoolsReferendum18. Questions can be emailed to epsreferendum@ewingboe.org.

 

EPS