Ocean City Board of Ed wants support for $2.5M bond

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Ocean City Primary School Ocean City Primary School

OCEAN CITY — Seeking public support for a $2.5 million bond to help fund a renovation project for the Ocean City Primary School, members of the Board of Education hosted a special presentation before a board meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 19.

School district officials said they hope to create a safer and healthier learning environment for the students in the primary school, which was built in 1965.

The board approved a bond referendum last month. Voters have their say on Tuesday, March 11, when the school district will hold a special election. Polls will be open from 3 to 9 p.m.

As for tax implications, based on the average assessed home value of approximately $500,000, school business administrator Pat Yacovelli said it would increase the property taxes of a typical Ocean City homeowner about $15.39 per year for a period of 10 years.

The bond will fund a portion of the work, which will also be covered by a state grant and the district’s capital reserve. 

The total cost of the project, $6,653,368, includes a new roof, an emergency generator, water heater, boilers, lighting for classrooms and the multi-purpose room, and replacement of windows and doors and the fire alarm system.  

It also includes an upgrade for the heating and ventilation system and the installation of air conditioning. The new, energy-efficient HVAC system would permit school officials to set temperatures in the school by zone. 

Yacovelli said planning and opportunity had come together and it was time to act.

“With interest rates at historic lows, now is the perfect time to issue bonds,” he said.

The school board had diligently managed district finances over the years, he said.

With state funding available through Regular Operating District, or ROD, grants, the timing could not be better, he said.  The state will fund 40 percent of the cost of approved items, or close to $2.4 million. The district will also use just over $1.75 million from capital reserve.

The bulk of the work will be scheduled for the summer of 2015, he said, with preliminary work beginning after school hours in May or June of 2015.

“The substantial completion of the project will be scheduled before the start of school in September 2015,” he said.  

School officials said they were informed that the state would not fund the cost of a mechanism that would allow the doors on classrooms to be locked from the inside in case of an emergency. School officials said the locks would be included in the project and will fund the cost through the district’s reserve capital.

A separate HVAC project at Ocean City High School is projected to cost $2.9 million but was not included in the state funding. The school district will use capital reserve funding for this project, which is expected to be completed this summer.

Should voters turn the project down, the school district has an 18-month window to secure local funding before losing the state ROD grants, Yacovelli said. School officials could come back to voters in September or December of 2014 or January or March of 2015. Referendum dates are limited by state law.

School officials have made several presentations to the public over the past several weeks, including to Fairness in Taxes, the Exchange Club and the Republican Club.

During public comment at the end of the meeting, Vic Staniec, a FIT member who regularly attends school board meetings, said the school district had done a wonderful job of explaining the project.

Staniec said FIT’s executive board took a vote to support the project and would take out advertisements in local papers encouraging the community to support the project.

Board president Joe Clark thanked board members for their tireless dedication to the district, including the hours spent at recent promotional meetings to explain and support the proposal.

“I want to thank the board members for their effort to help get the word out,” he said. “It started with FIT. We’ve been around.

“For me, I think it’s great that the community has embraced this, to get the word out,” he said. Some of the sessions, which included a question and answer session after the presentation, were quite lengthy. “Some lasted a couple of hours, these were not short presentations.

“Thank you, Vic for allowing us to make a presentation to Fairness in Taxes,” Clark said.  

Board member Ray Clark, who chairs the board’s publicity committee, said the goal was to improve the environment in the school.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said.

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