GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Three months after losing its referendum by eight votes, the township school district is trying again — this time with additional help from the community.
Residents will vote on a $6.9 million referendum March 13 that, if passed, would pay to replace the roofs at the Roland Rogers, Smithville and Arthur Rann elementary schools, and replace the fire-alarm systems at the Roland Rogers, Smithville and Reeds Road elementary schools. The drainage system at the Arthur Rann school’s parking lot would be fixed and the surface would be repaved.
“We hope people see we’re not asking for fluff,” Superintendent Annette Giaquinto said. “This is basic to keep the school safe and healthy.”
The referendum for the projects was placed on the ballot in December and failed by eight votes. The district decided to hold the referendum again in March so that the majority of the work could still be completed over the summer.
“We believe it’s the time to do this,” she said. “To have it again three months later shows we think it’s very important. In today’s economic times, if it wasn’t important we wouldn’t be doing it. But if we allow the facilities to go too long, you end up with major repairs and much bigger costs.”
One of the ways this election will be different is the creation of a new team of residents, business owners, parents, township officials, district staff and students who make up the district’s new “Superintendent Task Force.”
The 35 members have gone out into the neighborhood to educate people on the proposed projects. The task force was formed in January and meets every few weeks to discuss ways to publicize the district in the community, Giaquinto said.
“It was not formed just for the referendum,” she said. “It has a much broader purpose. They took on the referendum as the first task.”
The task force has created more buzz about the referendum, and Giaquinto is optimistic it will get more people to vote.
“Our goal when people go into the voting booth is they are casting their vote based on knowledge,” she said. “They understand what the projects are and why we are doing them.”
Member Dave Carmen said he joined the task force because he wanted to become more involved in his hometown.
“I don’t think Galloway residents get involved in important things in their community,” he said. “We let things be the status quo. We need to get more people involved.”
Carmen said he has spoken with family members, friends, families of kids he has coached in youth football and about 200 of his Facebook friends who live in Galloway.
“It’s amazing how many people do not know (about the referendum),” he said. “Once they realize what it’s for, they can easily relate it to their own house. When it’s a roof, it’s something that has to happen.”
Al Casalnova, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Shore in Northfield, said he has gone door to door and spoken to people through his local transactions, including open houses and two residents whose firm handled a title search.
He is encouraging people to vote in favor of the projects based on the effect a good school system has on the value of a home.
“The quality of a school system ties into your home value,” he said. “The first thing (clients interested in buying a home) ask is about the school system. That benefits the township as a whole.”
The last referendum approved in the district was for the Galloway Middle School about 12 years ago, Giaquinto said. Voters approved the $18.9 million project, she said.
If approved, the district will bond the $6.9 million over a 15-year period, Business Administrator Tim Kelley said.
The exact cost to the taxpayer cannot be determined until the district knows what the rate will be on the bond, but Kelley said a conservative estimate would be $28 a year for the owner of a $200,000 home.
“For $28 a year, I think we’re getting great value,” Giaquinto said. “We’re spending the money well.”
The roof replacements are needed since Roland Rogers and Smithville elementary schools are both 20 years old and portions of Arthur Rann are more than 40 years old, Kelley said.
The drainage at the Arthur Rann parking lot is not working and flooding has gotten worse over the years, Giaquinto said, adding that when it floods, the students and staff refer to it as “Lake Rann.”
The new alarm systems would be able to identify the exact location of a fire in a school instead of the current system that identifies only a general area, Kelley said. That would enable first-responders to act more efficiently on calls, he said.
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