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State Leaves Ocean City in Limbo on School Construction Funds

A special school election is scheduled for March 11.

Ocean City Primary School
Ocean City Primary School
Ocean City voters will cast ballots in a special election March 11 to decide on borrowing to pay for a $6.6 million renovation of the Ocean City Primary School.

Gov. Chris Christie promised last month that the state would pay $2.4 million to Ocean City for school construction. The news was part of an announcement from Christie's office about $507.7 million in new state funding for 1,538 school projects statewide.

But a month after the announcement, Ocean City has yet to receive confirmation from state education officials that the money is really coming.

The school district does not know how much of the project cost to ask voters to fund and even if it's advisable to hold the March 11 special election on schedule.

In an update for the Ocean City Board of Education last week and again at a presentation to the Fairness in Taxes community group on Friday, new School Business Administrator Pat Yacovelli talked about a "period of uncertainty" for the district.

Yacovelli said information from the state Department of Education has been "very, very limited," and he knows only that the department is still reviewing applications and tentatively may release decisions on Jan. 21.

The district awaits a "preliminary eligible cost" (PEC) letter to confirm the state funding. The Board of Education's next regularly scheduled meeting is Jan. 29. If the district does not have the PEC letter, the board will have to decide on a course of action.

The primary school project is not planned until summer 2015, but the district was hoping a March referendum would allow it take advantage of historically low interest rates on borrowing.

The school needs a new roof, heating and cooling systems, plumbing and electrical systems, windows and doors. The estimated cost of the work is $6.6 million.
Voters would be asked to authorize a bond issue to pay for the balance of the project not funded by state grants.

The district faces two major capital projects: the $6.6 million Primary School project and a $2.9 million replacement of the heating and cooling (HVAC) system at Ocean City High School.

The state money would be used to reduce the cost burden to local taxpayers on one or both of the projects. 

The balance would be funded as follows:

  • OCHS HVAC system: The district's capital reserve fund (with a balance of about $3 million earlier this year) would pay for the project scheduled for summer 2014.
  • OCPS renovation: The bond issue would pay for the project scheduled for summer 2015.
Oceanpity January 13, 2014 at 10:11 AM
No way should we, the City Taxpayer agree to this bond issue!! This project has been "online" prior to Christie promising ANY funds.....where was the money coming from then? OC has MANY issues (flooding, road improvements, beach replenishment, dredging, .....the list goes on and on. We have given large increases recently to the FD, are upgrading emergency dispatch equipment and services (which will increse payroll....you watch), have lawsuits pending.....I'm starting to panic!!! Didn't the Mayor give his yearly Letter to the City which spoke of a OC's stable financial outlook? I don't see the same......
vic January 13, 2014 at 11:14 AM
as the head of the education committee for fairness in taxes I attend every school board meeting in an effort to monitor school board spending. on many occasions I have publicly chastised the school board when I believed that their spending was excessive. I have also attended many meetings in an effort to keep school spending under control. the roof and the hvac system at the primary school are approximately 27 years old and constantly being repaired. we have 2 choices. we can continue to repair these systems and we will bear all of the cost and eventually have to replace both. or, we can replace these systems now, in which case the state will reimburse us for up to 40% of the cost. we have to act fast before all of these state funds are used up by other districts. to me, the most economical way to go is to replace the roof and hvac system and have the state help us with the costs.
Seth Grossman January 13, 2014 at 05:06 PM
This is the price of union "Project Labor Agreements". The cost of routine repairs and replacement skyrocketed, and now money must be borrowed through Wall Street at outrageous expense to finance what were once routine expenses that were budgeted for every year. Liberty and Prosperity
vic January 14, 2014 at 01:14 AM
sounds like tea party speak.
Oceanpity January 14, 2014 at 12:01 PM
Look, my daughter has been a student there since 2008!! You don't have to tell me Vic, about the issues w the HVAC System at that school! My daughter has sat thru sweltering conditions at that school for summer school!! It's aweful! My point is that every yr. this Project is included in the projects the City will takle.....and each yr. it falls by the wayside! This improvement was a Line Item starting in 2010....what happened, I have no clue! Now, again it's a dire situation and we must rush out and borrow money to accomplish something that they sopposedly had everything ready to go on? Just research the Gazette and Patch for this topic.....you'll see what I mean. I'm sure the kids will sit another couple of summers melting in school which other improvements deemed more impt. move forward. I just think it's digging a deeper hole.
vic January 14, 2014 at 01:04 PM
if the voters approve the bond issue on the march 11 vote, these funds can only be used for the projects in the primary school. this work will be done during the summer on 2015, to insure that it will not interfere with the educational process. since interest rates are increasing, we want to put out the bond issue as soon as possible.

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