Brooklawn Board of Education To Hold Bond Referendum in March; Plan is to Purchase Nearby St. Maurice Church Property for School Expansion
FEBRUARY 1, 2013--BROOKLAWN NJ-On March 12, 2013 the Brooklawn Board ofEducation will ask the community for its support of a very special bond referendum in the amount of $1,825,000 in order to purchase the nearby St. Maurice church and rectory and to renovate the buildings to classroom and office space.
Superintendent John Kellmayer said, "St. Maurice holds a special place in the heart of the community. It was at St. Maurice that many Brooklawn children were baptized and made their first communion and confirmation. It was at St. Maurice that Brooklawn residents were married. And it was at St. Maurice that some of those who will remain forever in our hearts were laid to rest."
"There has been discussion of a large corporation purchasing the St. Maurice property, tearing down the church and the steeple on top of the church, tearing down generations of precious memories, and constructing a 24-hour convenience store. There has been discussion of other commercial interests that are not in keeping with the spirit of St. Maurice acquiring the property. The closing of St. Maurice has represented a sad period in the history of Brooklawn. Out of this sadness, however, may arise something very good," said Kellmayer.
Kellmayer said the school district needs additional classroom and office space, "the Board of Education seeks the public's support of the March 12 referendum."
The plan calls for the construction of classrooms, a stage, and other instructional locations and the relocation of Grades 6, 7, and 8 from the current building to the church to establish the Brooklawn Middle School.
The plan would also allow the district to create self-contained special education programs that would allow Brooklawn special education student s who currently are sent to out-of-district programs at considerable cost to the taxpayer, to be remain in the district. In addition, other special programs, including a state-of-the art Brooklawn Virtual Center that will benefit the entire community are being planned. The purchase may also provide additional office space for the borough. The Board is committed to acquiring the St. Maurice property at no cost to local taxpayers and to maintain the current exterior of the church and rectory as much as possible.
Kellmayer was asked the following questions by CNBNews.
Question: How can the plan call for no cost to local taxpayers? If there is no cost, why is the Board of Education asking to borrow $1,825,000?
Answer: A little more than ten years ago, the Brooklawn Board of Education asked the community for its support of a bond referendum in order to construct a gymnasium, library, and to make renovations to the existing building. This project was necessary in order not only to modernize the school building but to provide the school and community with a gymnasium and library. At that time, the school district had no gymnasium or library. There were some who believed that the school was going to close and concerns about what that could mean to the future of the entire community of Brooklawn. The Board of Education promised to do everything possible to see that taxes did not increase because of the construction of the gymnasium, library, and other renovations.
Question: Did the Board keep that promise?
Answer: Yes, it did. Because of innovative financial management and other strategies, there was no cost to the taxpayer. Year after year, when most school districts and municipalities have raised taxes, the Brooklawn School District tax rate has consistently remained at the minimum allowed by law. Today, the school serves as the center of Brooklawn, with activities held in the gym seven nights a week and the school library open to the entire community. Enrollment has increased, property values have risen, achievement is high, and technology is state-of-the art. Students regularly make use of I-pads, smartboards, laptops, and other mobile devices.
Question: Weren’t there other referendums, too? Didn’t they replace the roof, the boilers, and all the windows? What about these costs?
Answer: Yes, the roof, boilers and all the windows have been replaced. Other renovations and repairs have been made as well. All this work was done at no cost to the local taxpayer. The Brooklawn School District tax rate has consistently remained at the minimum allowed by law.
Question: If the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades are relocated to the church to establish a Brooklawn Middle School, what will you do with the additional space in the current buildings?
Answer: The pre-K classroom will be relocated to a more central location in the main building. The art and music classes will no longer have to share the same classroom. One or more self-contained special education classes will be established. Other program and activities for the younger children will be established in the current buildings.
Question: Why do you need to establish self-contained special education classes in the district? Why can’t these children continue at out-of-district schools?
Answer: These Brooklawn children are currently bussed to out of district special schools or programs. The cost of tuition and bussing can easily run to $40,000-$50,000 for each child. Also, shouldn’t Brooklawn children have an opportunity to attend school in their hometown?
Question: What about this state-of-the art Brooklawn Virtual Center? If I don’t have children who attend the school, how will it benefit me?
Answer: The plan is to allow Brooklawn residents to use the Brooklawn Virtual Center in a manner similar to how they can currently use the Brooklawn Community Library, which is operated entirely by the Board of Education with no cost to the local taxpayer.
Question: Are there any other reasons the school district needs to purchase the St. Maurice property?
Answer: There are many. For example, every day about forty of school personnel and school visitors park in the St. Maurice lot. If St, Maurice is sold to an organization other than the school district, these cars will have to be parked in the already crowded streets.
The purchase of the St. Maurice property represents an unprecedented opportunity for the school district and entire community. The Board of Education has attracted national attention for its innovative approaches to financing, for the sale of naming rights, for its entrepreneurial spirit, and was called by one national publication, “one of the most innovative public school districts in America.” The Board has kept every promise made to the community and plans to do so again. We ask your support of the March 12 referendum. Voting will take place from 2-9 PM at the Brooklawn Community Center. The referendum will allow the community of Brooklawn to continue to reinvent itself, to thrive and prosper, to preserve our past, and to insure our future.