Cinnaminson Schools Need Repairs but Will State Money Come Through?

The school board is waiting to see if the state will release construction funding but a referendum is most likely coming next year.


The state’s got the money and the Cinnaminson School District wants it.

According to Superintendent Salvatore Illuzzi, the state has about $500 million in construction funding that has yet to be released to districts. Illuzzi and the school board want that funding for “much-needed” repairs and updates to the high school and other district schools, a project passed by resolution this time last year.

To see a copy of the 2011 presentation, click on the PDF to the right.

Regardless whether the district waits for these funds to be released, a public referendum vote is necessary to raise the money. But the state funds would cut the amount needed from taxpayers by nearly 35 percent.

“That’s a lot of money the district and the community would get from the state,” Illuzzi said.

The background

Architect Robert Garrison Jr. of Garrison Architects presented to the school board in October 2011 outlining deficiencies the high school faces—inadequate parking, insufficient lighting, problems with the gymnasium, outdated boiler systems and more.

Other proposed improvements include new canopies and vestibules for New Albany Elementary School, Eleanor Rush Intermediate School and the middle school.

“The project itself really took in the needs of the district both right now and well into the foreseeable future,” said Illuzzi.

Some upgrades qualify for state reimbursement and some do not.

“The board obviously wanted to build a project that will receive as much state reimbursement as possible,” Illuzzi said. “So, that’s what we did.”

The money

Last year, Illuzzi said the board had high hopes the money would be released. But a year later, it hasn’t been.

A few months ago, it became even more apparent, the superintendent said, that the high school needed some repairs. Illuzzi told Garrison this and asked him to give his best guess on the state's plans as far as releasing funds.

“He said it’s not a question of if the money will be released, it’s a question of when,” Illuzzi said.

The problem facing Illuzzi and the board recently is how long they should wait and see if the money is in fact released.

“How long can we wait if we have to do something to the building?” Illuzzi said of the high school.

So, Garrison was called back in to revise the initial plans for upgrades to each district building in case state money doesn’t come through; Illuzzi and the school board didn’t want to ask the public for the full amount.

“The board will look at the cost as compared to the [initial] project to see if it’s better to wait and see if the governor releases the money,” Illuzzi said.

Next year is an election year for Gov. Chris Christie—who just announced his bid to run for a second term.

“I think it’s a good bet [the state] will release the money,” Illuzzi said.

What now?

In the downsized plan Garrison is working on, Illuzzi said, upgrades to the high school, including the new gymnasium and a connection of the second floor, would not be done.

“All that would be done is to replace the boilers to make sure the building would be secure,” he said.

If the money were released soon, the district would most likely ask for the cost of the full project, including a new gym. Much of that cost would be offset by state funds.

For example, if the money were released by February 2013, the referendum vote would be in September 2013. Work would begin in March 2014 and be completed in June 2015.

“We’re looking at our options at this point,” Illuzzi said. “The biggest concern is the boiler and what I call the 'guts' of the building—the infrastructure, the electric, the plumbing and the heating ventilation system. They are all original to the building.”

The high school was built in 1964 and the “guts” are way past their 40-year lifetime expectancies. The second floor of the building was put on two years later.

The school board’s facilities/transportation committee is meeting with Garrison Dec. 13 to discuss options. Those options will be brought back to the full board in an upcoming meeting.

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John December 02, 2012 at 04:52 PM
@cinnalovin', this is not fighting its a discussion about the schools and the uncanny way of getting more money for education....they want to sell space for advertising, now they say the state has money, next they want to finance a bond issue and lo and behold the taxpayer is footing the bill....Education is not the only thing that brings in people low taxes and FAIR MARKET VALUE assessments are also the key to things....an example, a house on Manor Drive is valued at 289,000 but assessed at 344,600 how do U account for the difference in this in taxes...I think U should go back to school and learn MATH, thanks for chatting with us. enjoy the day
Skitch December 02, 2012 at 10:38 PM
@Pundit and some of the others. I don't think the answer is to replace the schools at all. My opinion is we can update and modernize what we already have. And again, the repairs don't all have to be done at one time. Lay the groundwork now and plan ahead. Do the work in phases. Do what has to be done now to keep the schools running efficiently. My feeling is that the schools need a face lift and obviously a replacement of some core systems just like your own homes need from time to time. Your going to have to bite the bullet at one point or another and just do it. The longer they wait the more expensive the project will be in the future. The costs are not going to go down, only up. I would much rather pay less now than more later. By doing this project in phases over the next couple of years allows them to work in the costs and save for them in the budget so the money is there when it comes time to start the next phase. Would you rather have the schools start falling apart and the district shipping our kids off to attend other schools? By not doing the repairs or the upgrades this is exactly what will happen. Almost happened to the Palmyra students a couple of times and some of our other adjoining towns. Other districts have been putting band aids on their schools to keep them open for a couple of more years.
agent itchy December 03, 2012 at 03:52 PM
home rule is one of the least efficient methods of delivering education services. with more than 600 separate districts it's no wonder NJ pays the most per student in the US. NJ should abandon the 600 district model and form roughly 100 regional districts. brand new education campuses similar to small college campuses would serve students in six to eight municipalities and the costs would be spread out among the roughly 20,000-30,000 homes. the 600 superintendents all earn over $100k with most districts also using assistant superintendents. There's about $100 million in savings just from the roughly 1,200 administrators, and trust me, they all have a staff and many drive district automobiles. the 600 superintendent model is insane and needs to be addressed. consolidate our public services or continue to cough-up higher taxes.
John December 19, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Oh boy, in the last few comments people are saying different years for the schools....They are made of stone and bricks and mortar and should last....amazing how we are so fast to build new ones...oh well thats life here great....We are supposed to have budgets right so how do we always need more money....Oh the new math...


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