LBI School Referendum Expected to Top Agenda at Next Surf City Council Meeting

Town Halls on Referendum Scheduled in Four Other LBI Towns
By Gina G. Scala | Oct 16, 2019

Surf City — The final town hall meeting to discuss the $7.68 million December LBI Grade School rehabbing referendum is expected to be held during next month’s Surf City borough council meeting. Officials invited an ad-hoc committee of the LBI Consolidated Board of Education to discuss the project, which continues to draw opposition from members of the community who want to save the Ethel A. Jacobsen Elementary School from ultimately being shuttered.

The meeting is set for 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 13 in the municipal meeting room at borough hall. The start time is one hour earlier than normal borough council meetings, which begin at 7:30 p.m.

District officials successfully scheduled town hall meetings in four of the five Island communities that send students to the two schools. The only town, as of deadline, not hosting a meeting on the referendum is Barnegat Light.

Long Beach Township’s town hall meeting is scheduled for 4:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 17 at the municipal complex in the Brant Beach section of the township. Ship Bottom’s meeting is Monday, Oct. 21 at 6:30 p.m. at borough hall. Harvey Cedars scheduled its meeting for Wednesday, Oct. 23 at 4:30 p.m. at borough hall.

Last month, a majority of the school board approved a motion to move forward with plans to upgrade the LBI School, which was built in the 1950s. The proposed renovation plans include shoring up the underneath of the LBI School, upgrades to the HVAC system and ADA compliance.

Frank Little, the professional engineer retained by the board to update an April 2015 structural review of the LBI School, said there is nothing in the proposed plan that would require the district to appear before the Ship Bottom Land Use Board seeking a variance. Likewise, he said the scope of the project would not require raising the building, either in part or in totality.

One of the biggest selling points of rehabbing the school for many is the nearly 40 percent in state aid the district might possibly receive to counter the cost. As of now, the district would receive roughly 34 percent in aid from the state for the project. The $7.6 million in bonds is over a 20-year period, and cannot be paid back in full for almost a decade, Tony Solimine, bond counsel for the district, has said.

Taxpayers with a home assessed at $300,000 can expect to see a school tax increase of $8, according to the presentation. It’s a $17 spike in school taxes for a home assessed at $600,000 and $28 for a $1 million assessed value home.

The board failed, in a 4-4-1 vote last month, to garner enough support for a motion to close the E.J. School if the referendum was approved and once renovations were complete. Still, there is lingering concern among members of the community who believe the board will, at some point in the future, vote to do that and relocate all of the school’s educational services, the entire student body and staff into the LBI School.

Located on 2.6 acres of land in Ship Bottom and 2.9 acres of land in Surf City, the E.J. School was deeded to the school district in 1962 with the caveat that once the property was no longer “used for school purposes, the Borough of Surf City shall have the option to repurchase the land for a sum equal to the sale price paid to the borough by the Board of Education, plus interest thereon at the rate of 4 percent annum from the date hereof,” according to part of the 1962 deed.

— Gina G. Scala

ggscala@thesandpaper.net

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