Maplewood Schools / Kids South Orange

South Orange-Maplewood $140M Facilities Plan Schedule ‘Slides’ — No Bond Approval in March

Looks like the South Orange-Maplewood School District will be under a tight squeeze to get everything in order for construction to begin this summer on a $140M Long Range Facilities Plan that was approved by the Board of Education in November.

While approval of bonds for the project by the Board of School Estimate was originally scheduled for this month, that projection now looks to have been aggressive, with current estimates putting approval in May or June at the earliest.

According to District Director of Strategic Communications Suzanne Turner, the schedule is currently for “all documents from architects to be delivered to the New Jersey Department of Education” by March 8. Turner wrote that this will include air conditioning as well as improvements to Underhill and Ritzer fields.

Next, from March 8 to May 8, the NJ DOE will review and approve the documents. “DOE releases preliminary allowable costs for the projects after the review (after May 8),” wrote Turner, “Then back and forth to get final project list approved.”

“Final costs of projects then go to the Board, and then BSE for approval.” Turner reported that District Business Administrator Paul Roth “did not give an estimated date” for these actions.

Community member and former BOE candidate Marian Cutler commented about the slide in the schedule at the end of the Feb. 25 BOE meeting. “You have a lot of people in our two towns literally sitting on the edge of their seats,” said Cutler. “It’s not fair. You owe the 42,000 people here — and I’m a damn broken record to you guys — communicate. The timeline has slipped. Dr. Ficarra you made a big deal about being super transparent. Please get back to that. What is it going to take? When are we going to see bulldozers? When are we going to see a bond? When am I going to know the impact to my taxes?”

“We will be doing that shortly,” responded Dr. Ficarra. “We should have a lot more information by March 8. … Once early March comes we will be moving much more quickly” and informing the community of the timetable.

“We didn’t shut down. We just don’t have much more to tell you other than we gave it to the architect and we are waiting.”

District Administrator Paul Roth then explained that the NJ DOE has a 60-day review process after which preliminary eligible costs for the projects would be released (echoing the information sent to Village Green by Turner). Roth reported that the Board of Education then reviews and accepts and then authorizes the district to send back to DOE for final determination of costs. “Once we have that letter, we come back to the BOE and the BOE authorizes a meeting with BSE for a request of final funding,” said Roth.

All the approvals are public session, reported Roth.

See the discussion on the video here beginning around 3:53:00.

Related stories here:  

South Orange-Maplewood BOE Approves Long Range Facilities Plan by 8-0 Vote, November 20, 2018

UPDATED: South Orange-Maplewood BOE Approves Long Range Facilities Plan, November 20, 2018

Ritzer & Underhill Sports Field Improvements Are Probable Additions to South Orange-Maplewood School Facilities Plan, December 6, 2018

‘A Historic Moment’: South Orange-Maplewood Moves Closer to $140M School Improvement, Integration Plan, December 7, 2018

Ritzer & Underhill Sports Field Improvements Are Probable Additions to South Orange-Maplewood School Facilities Plan, February 5, 2019

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