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Referendum Update - #InvestInRamsey

Bond Proposal Shifts Second Question to 2019

In addition to hiring staff, deep-cleaning buildings, and planning curriculum, the leadership of the Ramsey School District spent summer months fine-tuning the bond proposal that voters will consider on December 11. The building plans are now more detailed and the financial estimates are more solid. The most notable difference is the shift from two questions this December to two separate votes this December and the following November.

The state’s Department of Education has overruled Ramsey’s original intent to request an operating budget boost on the Dec. 11 ballot. While we disagree and are looking to appealing that decision, we also know we can’t put all our plans on hold. Every delay deprives Ramsey students of facilities they need and deserve.

December 11, 2018 – Voters will consider borrowing $42.9 million to make building and safety improvements at every school. The proposal includes costs of building classrooms to accommodate All-Day Kindergarten.  Debt service aid from the state would reduce the true local impact to the Ramsey community to about $32.9 million.

November 5, 2019 – Voters will consider a slight tax increase to cover the operating costs of All-Day Kindergarten.

Without voter approval of BOTH questions, Ramsey can’t spend any bond funds on All-Day Kindergarten.

Most of the bond proposal addresses our needs for modernized instructional space, improved security structures, and long-term maintenance – keep reading for an overview. In fact, the space for All-Day Kindergarten accounts for just about $4.9 million of the larger proposal. But the way we’ll ask voters to support All-Day Kindergarten requires some explanation so that every voter is informed.

The proposals related to All-Day Kindergarten address different needs. Bond funds would be used to build the space, and operating funds would be used to provide the program (i.e. staffing). In school budgeting, those different methods of generating revenue require different voter consideration.

Moving the operating budget question to 2019 offers tighter alignment between the tax increase and the actual operation of an All-Day Kindergarten program that meets Ramsey’s standards.

This issue has evolved into the following timeline: Voter approval of the Dec. 11 bond referendum would allow work on the significant parts of the proposal that have nothing to do with All-Day Kindergarten; see the overview below. Voter approval of operating funds in November 2019 would launch the process of detailed building plans, competitive bids, and construction (paid for with bond funds) to make our schools ready to offer All-Day Kindergarten (paid for with operating funds) in Fall 2020.

Citizens, Board of Education members, and administrators worked for a year to develop this bond proposal, and together they determined that the Ramsey School District should offer All-Day Kindergarten to its entire community. We are the last district in Bergen County without an All-Day Kindergarten program, and expanding our half-day schedule would make a great program even better with consistency for every young student.

Bond Referendum Overview

The bulk of the bond funding would go toward facilities that all Ramsey students use every day over multiple years. In a nutshell, voters have a chance to make vast, important improvements in an economical way. A successful bond referendum takes advantage of relatively low interest rates, a long-term payment schedule, and – most appealing – state aid that covers up to 40% of certain project costs. That state aid would reduce the local cost by about $10 million, and that aid isn’t available for anything except a voter-approved bond referendum.

These are some of the improvements proposed in the Dec. 11 referendum.

  • Improved security, with enclosed vestibules at all schools like the one already built at RHS
  • Nine state-of-the-art science labs at Smith to keep pace with today’s science standards
  • Renovated locker rooms at RHS, where 1950s-era spaces lack safety sight lines and modern showers
  • Replaced track, turf field, and five tennis courts at RHS, because current facilities are beyond their life expectancies
  • Renovated STEM labs at Smith and RHS, to accommodate growth and create collaborative work spaces
  • Improved spaces for exercise and physical education, plus ADA-compliant bleachers
  • Security enhancements beyond entry vestibules, mechanical upgrades, roofing replacements, and air conditioning in highly used spaces – all designed to protect the investment Ramsey residents have in their school buildings
  • Performing Arts Hub at RHS, where student demand has  surpassed available space
  • Performing Arts wing at Smith to create appropriately sized band and chorus rooms
  • Renovated Media Center at RHS to give student groups a place to collaborate and create

Those are just the highlights! While the two-question decision that would allow All-Day Kindergarten requires voter education, the bond referendum is so much more than that one component. To learn all of the details, voters can visit www.ramsey.k12.nj.us for a historical review, project descriptions, and FAQs. Links provide easy access to forms for voter registration and Vote By Mail ballots. There are also ample opportunities for in-person presentations and building tours, including a Referendum Fair on Wednesday, Nov. 28 in the RHS Cafeteria.

Our first goal was to develop a fiscally responsible way to meet the needs of Ramsey students. Our second goal is to make sure voters feel informed about the Dec. 11 bond referendum and November 2019 operating proposal. Voter approval of both would help us meet the goal that drives us every day: To achieve excellence, one student at a time.