road to referendum

Hillsdale Public Schools

Our aging middle school has been discussed for a long time.

Now a solution is proposed for our learners and community.

The Hillsdale BOard of Education

voted unanimously in June 2022 to move forward with an estimated $82.5 million bond referendum to replace the century-old George G. White Middle School. This website will grow with more information as Hillsdale moves closer to a public vote on March 14, 2023.

What is a Bond referendum?

A bond referendum is a vote in which a school district asks voter approval to borrow funds through the sale of bonds. Only after a bond referendum is approved by voters can a district sell bonds to fund large-scale improvements needed to update and maintain schools that are not achievable through the annual budget. In contrast, the annual budget funds day-to-day operations, such as salaries, supplies and regular maintenance.

OUR proposAL

ReplacE The aging
MIDDLE SCHOOL ...

George G. White Middle School has long shown its age. The building lacks the characteristics that form the foundation of a 21st century learning experience, which fosters innovation, a love of learning and space to support psychological and physical wellness.

Our middle school faces extensive challenges. It lacks the physical space needed for our students and programming. Our mechanical systems - HVAC, electric, plumbing - are ailing and are the victim of many years of piecemeal fixes driven by emergency circumstances.

The building's needs include: classrooms space of appropriate size for today's learners; boilers, windows, doors and roofing; efficient and safe parent drop-off zones; staff and visitor parking; a gymnasium that meets the demands of our physical education learners and robust recreation/ community athletics; and cafeteria space and service areas that can accommodate the student population of today and tomorrow.

... WITH a New middle school across the street

**Sample Rendering**

what's the timeline?

If voters approve the referendum in March 2023, official construction plans would be submitted to the state Department of Education for review.

Timing: If voter approve the bond referendum, it would take 10-12 months for review of the construction plans followed by the public bidding process. Construction of a new building would take 18-24 months. Students could be in the new building for the Fall of 2026. Once students are permitted to occupy the new building, the current George G White facility would be razed and converted to an artificial turf complex for student use during school hours and community use in the evening and on weekends.

Costs: Very preliminary estimates put the "real feel" tax impact in the range of $100/month (for a home assessed at Hillsdale's average) over a 20-year bond term. As Hillsdale gets more information from the state and its financial advisors, that estimate will become more firm.

During the Board's process the estimated $100 per month cost of building a new school was compared to $72 per month cost of renovation and addition. The process of renovation would have required that students and staff relocate to modular trailers for a minimum of two years. At today’s estimates, that relocation to trailers would cost more than $3.7 million. In addition to this cost and disruption to to the middle school experience for students, trailering children poses a host of safety and security concerns. Additionally, Hillsdale would be left with the many unknown factors that come from renovating a 100-year-old school and some architectural constraints could not be overcome. A survey of people who learned about the options showed very strong support for the proposal to invest in a new middle school.

What's meant by "real feel?" The district is nearly done paying for the improvements made through a referendum that voters approved years ago. That will result in a slight drop in the tax rate for the 2023-24 school year. Simultaneously, voter approval in March 2023 would result in an increase. The balance of those is what taxpayers would really feel, and that's a net increase of about $100/month for a home assessed at Hillsdale's average.

All residents benefit from well-maintained, quality schools. A survey by Realtor.com put hard facts behind the general assumption that schools matter to homebuyers -- 91% said district boundaries were important in their hunts. It also found that homebuyers were willing to give up a bedroom or garage to live in the right district; others said they were willing to exceed their budgets to do so.

Hillsdale faces a turning point on March 14, 2023. Voters will choose to invest to build a new school and new field space or choose to live with the current building and grounds.

WHAT IS THE NEXT STEP?

Hillsdale is awaiting final approval from the NJ Department of Education, which would be followed by updated estimates of tax impact. That impact will be based on value of a home assessed at the average in Hillsdale - a value that is usually less than market value. The district will use this website as one tool for sharing information with the community. We also will plan opportunities for the public to ask questions well in advance of the vote on March 14, 2023.