Frequently Asked Questions About the Referendum
Below are questions considered both in the referendum-building process and posed by the public, based on the best information available at the time. The school district will continue to update, respond to, and post common questions as the Bond Referendum work is completed.
Why is this the right time for a referendum?
Toms River Regional Schools' Board of Education has worked for more than a year to get an expert review of the district’s buildings – going well beyond the required visual inspections to include looking inside walls, roofs and crawl spaces. That in-depth inspection showed structural risks, water leakage, inefficient utilities and other ways our buildings need prompt attention. Some of the concerns were so urgent that the board exhausted its reserve funds to start repairs immediately. Other issues were deemed so pressing that the Board focused its efforts on making a plan to restore the buildings before further damage was done and before some areas were beyond use.
Why can’t we pay for these repairs within the existing school budget?
As the Facilities Assessment revealed, there are over $135 million in high priority repairs and renovations needed across the district. The existing school budget for buildings and grounds contains only limited funds for routine maintenance and repairs, and cannot support the costs of significant capital needs that have been identified.
Is the referendum needed because our buildings were not maintained all along?
Toms River Regional Schools has been maintaining its facilities to the best of its abilities within the available budget. The State of New Jersey requires a minimum line item budget be set aside for Building Repair and Maintenance for each of its buildings every year. The minimum set aside is 2% of a building's square foot replacement costs. The state has held the figure of $143.00 per square foot since 2007. (The district consistently spends more than that minimum amount per school.) However, many industry standards state that upwards to 10% of a budget should be set aside of repair and maintenance.
Three facts apply in our district: 1) Our twenty-one buildings are aging, 2) construction materials and systems generally have a useful life which has been surpassed in most instances, and
3) the district has not gone out for a referendum in over 10 years, and the last successful referendum was in 2001. During the 2001 referendum, buildings were obviously 17 years younger than they are today and the district focus at the time was to construct additions to the schools where student populations were increasing. Those needs are addressed and recent demographic studies indicate that we are positioned adequately with all housing needs. Building maintenance issues, however, remain and continue to worsen every year.
What are “soft costs” in the referendum budget?
Construction project costs are defined with “Hard Costs” and “Soft Costs.” Soft costs are capital expenditures that are necessary to complete a project that are not considered direct construction costs. Soft costs include everything from architectural and engineering fees, bonding and legal fees, pre- and post-construction expenses, permits and taxes, insurances, and project contingencies. As they relate to many up front conceptual elements of a project, costs cannot be ascertained. In addition, as ‘hard construction’ costs are at best an educated guess, project contingencies need to be established which hopefully would cover any unforeseen additional project costs. The only way to accurately cover these are through percentages of construction costs. Depending on the project size and scope, soft costs can range from 18% to 30% of a construction project.
What is Debt Service Aid, and how is it calculated?
The Educational Facilities Construction and Financing Act (N.J.S.A.
18A:7G-1 et seq.), enacted on July 18, 2000, provides State financial
assistance through debt service aid for eligible school capital projects.
The Board is eligible to receive debt service aid at a minimum amount of
40%. Debt service
aid is only available if the voters of the School District authorize such
debt. It should be noted that Debt Service Aid is subject to State
appropriation and it is possible (if not likely) that the amount of Debt
Service Aid will be subject to pro-ration and be provided at a level below
40%. Any tax impact projections will be conservative in considering
What happens if the Bond Referendum is not approved?
The old adage “ you can pay me now, or pay me more later,” applies here. The reason for this is two-fold:
1) The buildings will need repairs to an even greater extent as the deterioration continues into the future, likely at an accelerated rate, and
2) the cost of the work will go up each year due to inflation.
Construction costs per square foot when many of these building were built may have been $45-50 dollars per square foot. Construction costs today can easily top $300.00 per square foot. With these important considerations, and the desire to improve and maintain the comfort and safety of our schools moving forward, we believe now is the best time for the district to go to referendum.
Does the referendum plan help create or improve any revenue-generating facilities that will help the budget? (2/6)
Yes. The plan includes improvements to the John Bennett Athletic Center and RWJBarnabas Health Arena.