Montclair's schools have at least $20 million in "priority" capital improvements and repairs that ought to be accomplished over the next several years, according to a report compiled by the district's architects.

Facilities upgrades over the next five years and beyond were on the agenda for the Montclair Board of School Estimate Wednesday night.

The meeting is part of the early phases of the planning for next year's school budget.

At the meeting were Mayor Robert Jackson; councilors Rich McMahon and William Hurlock; Board of Education President Laura Hertzog; board member Joe Kavesh; Interim Superintendent Barbara Pinsak and Business Administrator Emidio D'Andrea.

The district's architects of record, Parette Somjen, presented the board with a six-inch binder containing details of potential capital projects for each of the 11 schools in the district.

The capital projects, including the priority projects, total at about $65 million. However, the architects suggested trying to carry out about $20 million of those projects over the next five years.

The age of Montclair's school buildings - many of which date back to the early 1900s - is one of the key contributors to the capital projects. Parette Somjen's representatives urged the district to look into a program of proactive repairs; much of what the district has been doing in recent years, because of expense, is reactive work: repairs done to immediately pressing issues.

Jackson complimented the firm on their work. "I think this is a document that really helps us think through where we stand and where we want to go," he said. "Certainly, $20 million is daunting, God knows $65 [million]."

The board also discussed the subject of where the district's finances would be in the next five years, depending on school funding, taxes and other factors. The board also began laying out a preliminary budget calendar; Montclair would have to have its budget submitted to the county by March 8, and the earliest that the district could have a public forum would be March 22. The board would also have to have the budget certified by April 8.

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