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N.J. voters approve most school renovation referendums

Construction projects in the Bordentown Regional, Mansfield Township and Berlin Township school districts were given voter approval in referendums held Tuesday.

Construction projects in the Bordentown Regional, Mansfield Township and Berlin Township school districts were given voter approval in referendums held Tuesday.

Two local referendums were among four statewide that did not pass. In all, New Jersey voters approved 11 referendums representing over $215 million in school building and renovation projects.

Proposals involving solar power proved popular, with six of the seven on ballots statewide earning approval, according to the New Jersey School Board Association.

The one that didn't pass was local. In Burlington County, voters in the Springfield Township School District rejected an $11.1 million proposal to install solar panels, build a gym and make other renovations at the elementary school. The state would have reimbursed $3.8 million. The annual tax on the average home, assessed at $308,000, would have increased $76.

"Obviously, we're very disappointed" by the 255-330 vote, said Superintendent Beth Godett, who said that the school board would be discussing its options.

In Gloucester County, the Delsea Regional School District narrowly missed approval of a $3 million project to replace the roof at the middle school. The vote was 309-313, Superintendent Frank Borelli said.

The district had sought a $1.4 million bond, which would have been augmented by $1.6 million in state aid. Taxes on the average home would have increased about 70 cents the first year and about $6 in the second year; in the third year, they would have decreased a little over $3.

The promise of slightly decreased taxes and revenue-producing solar power was enough to squeak a referendum by voters in the Bordentown Regional district. The $8.5 million project passed 640-620, according to Superintendent Constance Bauer.

Plans are to install a solar energy system at the Burlington County high school and develop an athletic complex for sports and other extracurricular uses. It is eligible for $2.6 million in state aid.

Of the district's three municipalities, only Bordentown Township actually passed the referendum, according to unofficial results. Taxes there on the average $281,311 home will go down 54 cents a year. In Bordentown City, taxes on a $222,994 home will decrease 43 cents. In Fieldsboro, where the average home is assessed at $180,238, taxes will dip 35 cents.

Mansfield Township School District voters approved two ballot questions. The first, with a vote of 514-253, authorized a $639,300 roof replacement at John Hydock Elementary School. That project will be funded by a $383,580 bond and $255,720 from the state.

The second question involved the installation of solar panels at the grade school, a $1.2 million project that will receive $491,770 from the state. That vote was 468-299. The net tax increase is projected to be $6.67 annually on a home assessed at $333,368.

"The roof was a health-and-safety issue," Superintendent Diane Bacher said today after morning of heavy rain. "On a day like this, we are happy we are getting a new roof."

Bacher said the district also looked forward to integrating lessons about the solar panels into school curriculum.

Berlin Township voters in Camden County finally gave their blessing to replacing leaky roofs at Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School and John F. Kennedy Elementary. The proposal - which also authorized upgrades to the heating and air-conditioning systems - passed 176-116.

"I've very pleased," said Superintendent Brian Betze. "This is the third time we've tried this. In these economic times, we're weren't too optimistic."

The project is budgeted at just under $6.6 million, to be funded by a $3.3 million bond and $3.2 million in state aid. For the typical home assessed at $115,000, the tax increase will be $52.