Regional district holds first of three information sessions on $37 million referendum

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EGG HARBOR CITY – Officials of the Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School District presented information about its proposed $36,998,000 bond referendum at Cedar Creek High School Tuesday, Feb. 18.

A second information session will be held 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, at Absegami High School; and the final session at Oakcrest High School will be 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26.

During the presentation, district Superintendent Steven Ciccariello provided a brief history of each of the regional district’s three high schools, an overview of projects already completed at the schools, and a synopsis of projects to be funded if voters approve the referendum.

Business Administrator Charles Mueller spoke about how the cost of the project would be apportioned among the district’s constituent communities, Egg Harbor City, and Galloway, Hamilton and Mullica townships.

The meeting was sparsely attended by residents of the constituent communities, and only a few people questioned the bond referendum.

If the referendum is approved, the owner of a property assessed at $100,000 in Egg Harbor City would pay $25 more a year in regional school taxes, in Galloway Township $21 more, in Hamilton Township $22 and in Mullica Township $36.

Egg Harbor City resident Angelo Lello questioned why Egg Harbor City residents would have to pay $25 a year more in taxes on $100,000 of assessed valuation, while property owners in Galloway and Hamilton townships would pay less.  

Mueller said a funding formula the state has developed for regional districts considers each community’s total net valuation, along with elementary school and high school enrollment to determine each community’s annual fair share of regional school taxes.

Hamilton Township will be responsible for 52 percent of the total cost this year, Galloway 34 percent, Mullica Township 8 percent and Egg Harbor City 6 percent, he said.

A couple who recently moved into the new Neighborhoods at Cedar Creek housing development next to Cedar Creek High School asked if fundraising was considered for some projects, such as the estimated $200,000 for an electronic sign at the Moss Mill Road entrance to Cedar Creek on New York Avenue.

Liz Hesse of Mullica Township, whose daughter attended the high school and who raised money for student athletes to play basketball in Florida, said, “We fund-raised every season, and it was difficult. We hit up the same people all the time. It’s a good idea, but it’s likely it won’t happen.”

Egg Harbor City resident Tatsiana DaGrosa asked what would happen if voters failed to pass the referendum.

“If it doesn’t pass, the work does not get done,” Ciccariello said. “We need one more yes vote than no votes.”

Egg Harbor City Councilman Clifford Mays said he wanted the district to clarify that most homes are assessed at twice the amount the district presented, so if a home were assessed at $200,000 the owner would pay $50 more a year in regional school taxes.

The New Jersey Department of Education Office of School Facilities would fund nearly 47 percent of the cost of making interior and exterior improvements at all three high schools.

Of the total cost of all the projects in the 20-year bond, the state would provide debt service funding totaling $17,311,831 and the taxpayers would pick up the rest, $19,686,169.

Ciccariello said all projects covered under the referendum were requested by students, parents, faculty and community members.

Voters will go to the polls in their respective communities from 3-9 p.m. Tuesday, March 11.

For a complete list of planned projects, referendum details, fact sheets and polling places, see the district’s website, www.gehrhsd/net/referendum_2014.asp.

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