By Jason Cohen
With the school year set to begin in a few weeks, Millburn Township is facing a major decision regarding education.
On Sept. 27, the town will vote on a bond referendum, which the state Department of Education (DOE) has agreed to provide the district with $7.61 million in funding for improvements to district buildings if the referendum passes.
According to Nancy Dries, the communications coordinator for Millburn Township Public Schools, the state will provide debt service aid in the amount of $7,618,199. That brings the net cost of the proposed referendum to $17,974,977 from the total cost of $25,593,176. The tax impact on the average home in Millburn Short Hills assessed at $1 million dollars will be $134.19 per year.
If approved, the referendum will authorize the district to raise funds through the sale of bonds to finance the purchase and renovation of the former Millburn Regional Day School (MRDS) building to become a fifth grade school to be known again as Washington School; innovation and research; design spaces at all schools; renovation of media centers at the elementary schools; and improvements at the middle school and high school.
The referendum also includes updating the alarm and district wide communication systems and the renovations to the bathroom facilities and air conditioning.
Millburn Superintendent Christine Burton said the public supports the proposed changes and looks forward to the vote.
“A referendum is an important signal to the public that we are making important steps forward to improve our schools,” Burton said. “We partner with the residents of the school district to provide the best for our students. We have confined the costs of this referendum to projects that directly impact our students and staff.”
Burton explained that the Board of Education and the school district provided information during every step of the referendum process last year. There have been many special meetings of the board, presentations at schools and Parent Teacher Organization meetings. There will also continue to be opportunities for members of the public to learn about the proposed referendum.
However, Burton noted that if it does not pass, the district will look at alternative measures for addressing enrollment and population issues at the elementary schools. Some solutions that are being considered are re-districting elementary school borders, or moving to “soft borders,” which means that students new to an elementary school will be registered to the school that has space in a particular grade, not necessarily their neighborhood school.
Information about the referendum may be found at https://sites.google.com/a/millburn.org/millburn-referendum/.
“As a district that continually seeks to enhance and improve our schools, this referendum will fulfill the goal of investing in excellence,” Burton said.