Plan for $188M capital improvements in Montclair schools continues on schedule
Applications for the Montclair Board of Education’s proposal for a $188 million capital improvement plan to repair and upgrade district facilities have been sent to the state Department of Education for evaluation.
In early August, the district will be notified how much debt service relief the state will provide, totaling between 28% and 34% of all expenses, Eric Scherzer, the board’s finance and facilities committee chair, said at the Wednesday, May 4, board meeting.
The proposal includes work at 15 district facilities, including schools, the administration building and the Aubrey Lewis Sports Complex, with work separated into two categories, infrastructure and educational enhancements, and broken up into 11 project types.
A previous draft of the proposal, presented at the March 28 board meeting, showed a slightly higher total of $190 million.
In the most recent proposal, some projects saw decreases in funding, with technology upgrades going from $11 million to $7.4 million, athletic facilities and playgrounds going from $16.5 million to $14.4 million, special education going from $3.5 million to $2.8 million and HVAC going from $77 million to $76.6 million.
But other projects received additional funding. Science rooms and classroom upgrades increased from $24.5 million to $26.8 million, practical and performing arts facilities from $21 million to $23.2 million and gymnasiums from $8 million to $8.4 million.
Parette Somjen Architects prepared the 25 applications to submit to the state Department of Education for the district’s proposal, Scherzer said at the May 4 meeting. Half of the applications were submitted May 4, and the remaining half would be sent on May 5, he said.
The applications were due to the state May 5 in order to place a question on the November ballot on the $188 million referendum. If the community votes in support of the referendum, Parette Somjen Architects will then draw up plans, the district will begin bidding for services and construction will be underway by summer 2023, Scherzer said.
Some schools required multiple applications, with different applications for educational work such as a classroom transitioning into a makerspace, and for non-educational work such as roof repairs, Scherzer said May 4.
Conversations may take place between the state Department of Education and the district over the next couple months if the Department of Education has questions about the applications, but the district does not expect to hear back about the amount of debt service relief for 60 to 90 days, Scherzer said.
Once the district knows the level of reimbursement from the state, they will revisit the proposed projects before filing with Essex County for a bond vote in November, Scherzer said.
“During the month of August we'll have some critical decisions to make,” Scherzer said.
The plan is to bond in three parts over five years, Scherzer said at the March 28 meeting. Under the previous proposed total — $190 million — the tax impact to the owner of a home assessed at the township average of $628,000 would pay an estimated $320 increase in taxes the first year, rising to $870 per year by the fifth year.
Using current interest rates and assuming an average level of state reimbursement, the owner of a home with the average assessment would pay an estimated $320 more in taxes per year for the first bond. In the third year, when another bond is issued, the homeowner would pay an additional estimated $275 in taxes. Another estimated $275 would be added in the fifth year. Each bond would be paid over a 20-year period.
The estimated costs for taxpayers had not yet been recalculated with the lower proposed total — after the change from $190 million to $188 million — but they will likely be proportional to the decrease in cost, Scherzer told Montclair Local in April. The costs have not yet been recalculated, he said Monday.
The finance and facilities committee will meet with the Montclair Education Association May 19 to discuss the union’s questions about the proposal, Scherzer said at the May 4 board meeting.
Information about the proposal, including a question and answer document, is posted to the district’s website.