Cumberland County officials say they will waste little time getting shovels in the ground for construction of the county’s first full-time technical high school.
Construction could begin this summer, with the first class of students entering the building in September 2016, county Freeholder Doug Long said.
“We’ve been working on this project for the last year, 18 months,” he said. “The design is almost complete. We should be out to bid some time in June. This is not going to be something that will sit around for a few years.”
The county can proceed with construction now that funding for the nearly $70 million project next to the Cumberland County College campus in Millville and Vineland is in place.
The freeholders on Wednesday voted 5-1 to approve an $18.5 million bond ordinance to help finance the high school. The state has already agreed to provide $48 million to help pay for items such as land acquisition and construction of the high school and athletic fields.
Freeholder Thomas Sheppard cast the only vote against the bond ordinance. He said he supports the idea of a full-time technical high school but believes that can be done for less money by expanding the Cumberland County Technical Education Center in Deerfield Township.
The center currently takes students from Bridgeton, Millville, Vineland and Cumberland Regional high schools on a part-time basis. County officials said that setup leaves students spending too much time riding buses and not enough time to meet state educational requirements.
Long said county officials have already met with superintendents from the four high schools to build support for, and get their input on, a full-time technical high school.
“The superintendents are on board,” he said. “I haven’t heard anything other than positive feedback.”
When finished, the full-time high school will be a two-story, 193,000-square-foot facility built on more than 10 acres next to the county college campus and between Route 55 and College Drive. The building will have classrooms, a media center, cafeteria, technical laboratories, greenhouse and even a fitness center that would be open to the public.
The plan also calls for new athletic fields and parking for 630 vehicles.
The freeholders on Wednesday also voted 5-2 to adopt a $125.8 million budget that increases the county tax rate by almost 5 cents.
The proposed budget totals $1 million more than the 2013 spending plan.
The budget increases the amount of money to be raised by county taxation from about $85 million in 2013 to about $86.9 million this year. That increases the county tax rate from 92.2 cents per $100 of equalized property value to 96.9 cents per $100 of equalized property value.
The county is using $4.4 million in surplus funds to prevent a greater increase in the county tax rate. The county allocated about $7 million in surplus funds to last year’s spending plan.
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