Funds would build 2 buildings, support other improvements.
The schools are needed to get preschool and special needs students out of trailers at the Early Childhood Center and to replace the Ella G. Clarke Elementary School.
Yechezkel Seitler, a school board member, said the trailers are in disrepair and “there are serious issues with the Clarke School.” He said after a new school is built, the old school can be sold “to offset the tax impact.”
School officials have made no decisions yet but a potential referendum will be discussed further July 18 at the next Board of Education meeting.
The referendum was announced Thursday night at a township Board of Education meeting at which the school board also approved the purchase of five, 54-passenger buses for $400,000 and eight minivans for $161,680. School officials said owning the vehicles could save about $500,000 a year in transportation costs.
The school district spends $30 million annually transporting township school children. The purchase of five full-sized school buses and eight minivans, which seat a driver and six passengers, will help reduce the costs of public school transportation, though the district will never be completely independent of contracted bus routes.
The vehicles will be used to reduce money spent on some routes for public school children, said Gus Kakavas, transportation consultant for the district. The vans will be put to use immediately and the buses will be for the 2014-15 school year.
The buses, priced about $80,000 each, have a three-year lease purchase option. If the district feels it is not saving money after the third year, the buses can be returned with no future costs and the district can return to using contractors, Kakavas said.
The vans will be used to transport children “who are unfortunately displaced and are in a Lakewood school but living in a hotel” in another town, Kakavas said. “The district is mandated by law to provide transportation for a displaced family in crisis. The vans will pay for themselves in the first year.”
During discussion of the referendum Thursday, Lisa A. Gorab, the district’s bond counsel, gave a presentation about the options for funding school construction and repairs using debt service or grants. The state is offering to pay 40 percent of costs in most cases, she said.
If the referendum passes, the district hopes to snag a portion of the $425 million in state funding available to 559 districts.
The taxpayers would be better served to use debt service, which would spread the cost over 20 to 25 years, Gorab said.
Another option would be a short-term loan, which comes with a 15 percent surcharge as well as additional criteria for state funding, Gorab said.
The district has a long history of making patchwork repairs, which eventually lead to higher costs than buying new, school board President Carl Fink said. Recently, the district spent millions of dollars to replace the roof on the Lakewood Middle School as well as making costly repairs to the air conditioning for parts of the township high school.