Voters will decide on Oct. 6 whether to approve $8 million in improvements to Watchung Hills Regional High School.
If the referendum passes, the project will be funded with capital reserve and state debt service aid up to 40%, according to school officials, resulting in no financial impact on taxpayers.
The proposed project includes a redesign of existing spaces into new robotics and STEAM labs; alterations to the nurse's office, ceramics and photography labs, a locker room and the trainer's room; and upgrades to the South Cafeteria Annex and OT/PT area. Chiller replacements and LED lighting upgrades would also be completed under the plan.
“Watchung Hills has been underfunded by the state since the state aid formula was introduced during the 2008-2009 school year,” said Superintendent of Schools Elizabeth C. Jewett in a letter to the community. “State debt service aid is one way our community is able to recoup some of our tax dollars. A successful referendum results in our district getting up to $3.2 million in state debt service aid toward the cost of the projects."
School officials said the referendum addresses critical needs, such as an electrical system that is beyond its useful life at over 50 years old.
If the referendum fails, Jewitt said the district will look to scale back the projects to complete what they are able with the allotted capital reserve without the state debt service aid, which is only available if the measure passes.
Watchung Hills Regional High School serves nearly 2,000 students in grades 9-12 from Green Brook, Long Hill, Warren and Watchung.
Cheryl Makin is an award-winning features and education reporter for MyCentralJersey.com, part of the USA Today Network. Contact: Cmakin@gannettnj.com or @CherylMakin. To get unlimited access, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: Watchung Hills Regional High School referendum on Oct. 6