Officials tour schools ahead of Tuesday’s referendum vote

Hamilton School Referendum tour with elected officials.
Scott Downie of Spiezle Architectural Group discusses needed repairs with Mayor Kelly Yaede, Freeholder John Cimino and Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo at Nottingham High School. Photo by Michael A. Sabo

Hamilton Township Superintendent of Schools Dr. Scott Rocco invited elected officials on a tour of three schools to highlight the need and importance of Hamilton voters coming out to vote for the school district referendum on Tuesday, September 26th. In attendance were the following elected officials: Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo, Mayor Kelly Yaede, and Freeholder John Cimino.

Rocco who took over as Superintendent of Hamilton Schools this year has been out in the community over the past three weeks meeting with community groups, political leaders, seniors and parents to help them understand the need for the referendum to pass and making much-needed infrastructure repairs in the district.

“I believe the plan we have put together represents a responsible, measured approach to addressing critical needs in our schools. It’s no more and no less than what is absolutely necessary right now to ensure that students, teachers, and community members who are in our building are in a safe and updated school environment,” said Dr. Rocco.

Hamilton School District Referendum Tour
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Over the past two weeks, the school district has held four open forums in the district to educate the community on the need for the improvements and how the dollars will be spent. When the district initially started looking at the needs at the schools and working with Spiezle Architectural Group to identify the cost the budget was identified to be $227.6 million dollars. The district worked with Spiezle to then identify only the highest priorities and reduce the cost to $55.4 million.

The Hamilton Township School District has 17 elementary schools, three middle schools, three high schools, and one alternative high school. The average age of its schools is 70 years old, with 21 of the district’s buildings more than 50 years old, and six that are at least 100 years old.

“Our schools are the backbone of our community,” said Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo, whose district includes Hamilton. “By investing in our schools, we ensure our property values remain strong, and our township continues to be a place where people want to live, work, and raise a family. I encourage my fellow Hamiltonians to learn more about the upcoming bond referendum, and make sure they vote on September 26.”

The district identified over $227 million of needed upgrades and repairs and then whittled the list down to the current $55 million, officials have said.

Proponents of the repairs see it as dire needs in safety and security and not elaborate spending or upgrades.

One of the parents we spoke with, Gretchen DiMarco who has children in the district offered her view:

  “The quality of our schools is directly related to the value of our property. Whether we currently have children in our schools or not, all Hamilton residents benefit from safe, secure public schools. There is nothing lavish or elaborate in this proposal – it just contains essential improvements for health and safety. The work has to be done. Passing this referendum is the smart, responsible thing to do.”

The tax increase would be about $53 a year for the average home assessed at $213,000.  Up to 40 percent of costs from the referendum will be offset by state shared funding if the referendum passes. This state funding is not available to Hamilton taxpayers without passage of the referendum.

The improvements that are needed are a matter of life safety for our faculty, staff, and students. Security enhancements, ADA compliance improvements to 8 schools and life safety repairs (crumbling ceilings, windows, and roofs), are what are the major components to this referendum,” said Dr. Rocco. “Making these critical improvements now instead of as an emergency repair will be more cost-effective,” continued Dr. Rocco.

The election is Tuesday, September 26th and polls will be open from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

For more info visit http://www.hamilton.k12.nj.us/district.cfm?subpage=1546350

 

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