The state has agreed to fund more than two-thirds of the cost of Cumberland County’s proposed nearly $70 million full-time technical high school, county officials announced Monday.
An estimated $48 million in state funding will help cover the cost of buying the land for the school and building the facility and its associated athletic fields, Cumberland County Freeholder Doug Long said.
“It’s one of those big moments in Cumberland County history,” he said.
Long said the governing board of the existing Cumberland County Technical Education Center will likely accept the funding by the end of this week. The Cumberland County Board of School Estimate will then take the same action, he said, and the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders will introduce a bond ordinance late next month to pay for the rest of the project, he said.
When eventually 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 Cumberland County College campus and between Route 55 and College Drive. The building is to 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 athletics fields and parking for 630 vehicles.
The project has already received a courtesy approval from the Millville Zoning Board of Adjustment, Long said. The high school campus site straddles the Millville-Vineland border.
Currently, Millville, Vineland, Bridgeton and Cumberland County Regional high schools send students to the Cumberland County Technical Education Center in Deerfield Township 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.
But while Long, one of five Democratic county freeholders, trumpeted the move, the freeholder board’s two Republican members — Tom Sheppard and Jim Sauro — voiced little support for the project.
“Yes, we agree something needs to be done, but we do not agree with moving the school at what will likely become a significant cost to taxpayers, especially when the budget the Democrats submitted already calls for significant tax hikes,” Sheppard said.
“We’ve run the numbers on this project and, no matter what way you look at it, taxpayers will be on the hook for a $20 million bill,” Sauro said. “There is simply no way we can support this project because it is completely and totally fiscally irresponsible.”
Meanwhile, Deerfield Township Committeeman Rudy Danna said he is concerned about what will happen to the current high school site.
“The school has been part of our community for nearly half a century,” Danna said in a statement issued by the Cumberland County Regular Republican Organization. “It makes little sense that they’d just go ahead and plan on leaving a big, empty building in our community without at least talking to us first. The complete lack of communication and total lack of transparency is nothing but a big show of disrespect to us.”
Long said the full-time high school project is not about any one municipality.
“It’s about uplifting the county,” Long said. “If there is a better location in the county (than the CCC campus site,) I can’t think of it.”
Contact Thomas Barlas: