Q. What is the total cost of projects proposed through the Dec. 11 bond referendum?
A. The bond referendum is made up of two questions. Q1 totals $43 million and Q2 totals $6.7 million.  The total of both questions is $49.7 million. If Question 1 doesn’t pass, the Question 2 proposal is nullified even if voters approved it. Question 2 relies on Question 1 passing.
Q. How much would state funding reduce the costs for local taxpayers?
A. If approved by voters, state funding will cover 35% of the total cost.  This would reduce the local share from $49.7 million to approximately $32.2 million.  State aid will no longer be available if voters do not approve the referendum.
Q. What projects are included in Question 1?
A. Approved Q1 funding would::
  • Build 9 classrooms at Maude Wilkins to make room for second graders. Shift second grade from Yocum to Maude Wilkins; shift pre-school from Maude Wilkins to Yocum. That realignment would group the youngest students at Yocum and the older ones at Maude Wilkins.
  • Added space would allow a more permanent setting for the preschool expansion planned for Fall 2020.
  • Proposed changes would free up much-needed space at Yocum, where small-group instruction often takes place in a hallway or stairwell.
  • Construct an Auxiliary Gym at the High School to provide space for 7th and 8th-grade teams and community activities.
  • Improve safety by installing security vestibules and interior doors at all schools except the High School.
  • Newly awarded grant funding will pay for the High School’s security upgrades.
  • Renovate the 1970s science labs at the High School to meet competitive educational needs.
  • Modernize the High School Media Center with more collaborative spaces and comfortable seating.
  • Replace roofs, drains and exterior windows at each school.
  • Update HVAC systems to use large-scale air conditioning instead of inefficient window units, adding it to well-used spaces like gyms and cafeterias.
  • Update water fountains - some that are from the 1930s, some that don’t function - and fire alarms at each school.
  • Relocate Maude Wilkins playground equipment to Yocum for pre-school use.
  • Improve parking lots at Steinhauer and the High School.
  • Construct ADA-compliant ramps at Steinhauer.
Q. What projects are included in Question 2?
A. Approved Q2 funding would:
  • Add air conditioning to classrooms at Maude Wilkins, Yocum and Steinhauer schools.
  • Upgrade Steinhauer’s drop-off loop with a new canopy cover.
  • Construct a Transportation Office at the Central District Office, so drivers have restroom or lunch break space between runs.
  • Replace asphalt pavement and construct a new overflow parking lot at Maude Wilkins.
Q. Why are these needs separated into two ballot questions?
A. The Board of Education decided to formulate one question based on the district’s very highest needs, and formulate a second question with needs that are not as critical but still would have significant benefits. While Question 1 addresses needs that the school board felt were absolutely essential, Question 2 addresses needs that are also important for safety and efficiency. Window air conditioning units are one example: Yes, they are reducing indoor temperatures on very hot days, but they are inefficient with energy costs and they continually break down. Replacing them is part of Question 2.
Q. What happens if one proposal passes but the other fails?
A. If Question 1 passes but Question 2 doesn’t, the school district cannot complete any of the projects proposed in Question 2. The reverse is not true: If Question 2 passes but Question 1 does not, the school district cannot complete any of the proposals. If Question 1 doesn’t pass, the Question 2 proposal is nullified even if voters approved it.
Q. How much will these improvements change our tax bills? 
A. Many factors go into calculating the tax impact of a bond referendum, including estimated project costs, fluctuating bond rates, and ever-changing property values. The district’s financial advisors have analyzed those factors to provide an estimated tax impact for a home assessed at the township average of $158, 914. For the Question 1 total of $43 million, minus the state’s commitment of $14 million, the tax impact is estimated at $147.61 per year. For the Question 2 total of $6.7 million, minus the state’s commitment of $2.37 million, the tax impact is estimated at $32.45 per year. 
Q. Why does it make sense to borrow funds for maintenance projects?
A. It might seem ideal to manage maintenance costs, like roof repairs and window replacements, within the annual budget. That’s a tougher goal than the average citizen might think, because school districts can’t increase their budgets more than 2% each year. That state-mandated cap makes it hard to fund periodic, big-ticket needs. But there’s a second, more compelling reason to borrow money for maintenance projects. State funding will cover about 35% of Maple Shade’s costs for certain projects when voters approve a bond referendum. If the costs were part of the annual operating budget, Maple Shade would pay 100% of the cost. Borrowing through bonds costs local taxpayers less. A great example is the emergency work that is will start soon at Steinhauer, where adhesive under floor tiles has loosened. The work was planned as part of the bond proposal – and state aid would have reduced the cost to local taxpayers. But conditions deteriorated to the point of being dangerous, and the district must repair the floor with reserve funds. That work will cost in the range of $40,000, and all of it will come from local property taxes. Packaging maintenance like that in a bond referendum reduces local costs.
Q. Why is central air conditioning proposed for areas that already have air conditioning?

A. We added window air conditioning units to classrooms throughout many years. Like a typical homeowner’s approach, we focused on areas with the greatest needs, not just for heat but for allergy and asthma concerns, and we addressed them in the least expensive way. Now, those aging units as a group are not nearly as efficient as a central air conditioning unit would be. The proposal includes adding air conditioning to some areas, but also improving the efficiency of air conditioning in others.

It’s important to remember that air conditioning used to be a luxury. But decades ago the school year wrapped up in early June; computers didn’t generate heat in every room; and doors and windows could be opened for air flow. Today, asthma and allergies are a much greater issue; most students are acclimated to air conditioning at home; and excessive heat and/or humidity threatens the lifespan of equipment and facilities.

Q. How would a Transportation Center benefit the school district? 

A. Maple Shade retains a unique, small town friendliness in its Transportation Department. While other school districts have had to outsource those services, we still hire our own bus drivers and aides – and many are town residents. We have increased bus runs related to transportation and afterschool activities, and soon we will be transporting some of the preschool students. Growth has made it necessary to dedicate space for periodic events like supervisor-employee meetings and training sessions, and everyday needs like restrooms and between-run breaks. This segment of our staff cannot be ignored, as they play a critical role in safely getting our students to and from school.

Q. How was the public involved in developing the project list for this referendum?
A. The Dec. 11 bond referendum has been more than a year in the making. Needs have been known for a while, and solutions started to emerge as ideas. Formal research started in December 2017 with a task force of staff and community members. They drew on the knowledge of consultants for information about facilities and enrollment forecasts, for instance, and they collected opinions from everyday citizens. They toured every building, met with an architect who specializes in schools, and considered suggestions for projects that could improve the Maple Shade district.
Q. How can residents learn more about this bond referendum before voting December 11?
A. Projects that make up the bond proposal have been discussed at numerous Board of Education meetings, which are open to the public. The district has used email to help inform parents of currently enrolled students, and school leaders have been speaking at various community groups to make sure the message gets to other populations.
Residents who still have questions can send an email to [email protected], or they can call Superintendent Beth Norcia at 856-779-1750. Information and vote reminders are being shared through social media: follow @MapleShadeSchools on Facebook and @MS_Schools on Twitter.
Q. What are the assurances that the new state funding for preschool expansion will continue?
A. The New Jersey Department of Education (DOE), Division of Early Childhood Education awarded our district a $1.15 million Preschool Education Expansion Aid (PEEA) grant for the 2018-19 school year. The funding will allow the district to provide a preschool free-of-charge for in-district families, with spots initially available for 90 children beginning on January 2, 2019. State funding would have covered even more Maple Shade preschoolers if the district had enough space to accommodate them. That state funding supported expansion, and the next step is state funding for continuation. The state expects to make PEEA funding available beyond the current school year to maintain and enhance high-quality preschool programs, such as this one, across the state. In fact, Maple Shade has already been asked to provide the state with its preschool operating budget for 2019-20.
Q. Why does Maude Wilkins Elementary School need 9 additional classrooms?
A. The planned re-alignment of grades would move 2nd grade from Yocum to Maude Wilkins and would move preschool from Maude Wilkins to Yocum – keeping the youngest students at Yocum and the older ones at Maude Wilkins. More space is needed to make that happen at Maude Wilkins, and Yocum is already cramped. Additionally, Maple Shade was chosen to receive state funding to expand its preschool program enough to serve up to 90 students without charge to their families. The amount of state funding could increase if we’re able to serve even more students, but we would need more space. The proposed addition of 9 classrooms at Maude Wilkins would solve current and anticipated space needs. 
Q. What is an auxiliary gym, and why does the High School need one? 
A. Our High School serves six active grades of students, and there isn’t enough space for all the athletic games and practices that require gym facilities. An auxiliary gym would fix that problem, providing space for 7th and 8th-grade teams. It would not be a full-fledged gym with locker rooms, ample sidelines, and bleachers. An auxiliary gym would provide just the basic space for athletic activities. In addition, it could be available for use by some of Maple Shade’s recreation teams. That means public facilities would benefit the community beyond traditional school hours
Q. What are the chances that the voter-approved New Jersey bond issue will overlap with Maple Shade's bond projects?
A. On Nov. 6, New Jersey voters approved the state's request to borrow up to $500 million by selling bonds and paying off that debt over 30 years. It's the same mechanism Maple Shade School District wants to use for local improvements, and in fact it's the same mechanism many schools and municipalities use to make big changes. There are some key differences between what passed across all of New Jersey and what is proposed locally. The state's "Securing Our Children's Future Bond Act" designates $350 million for expanding the capacity of vocational high schools, and also enhancing security measures at kindergarten-through-grade 12 schools. Remaining bond revenue will go toward improving water safety at K-12 schools ($100 million) and toward county colleges ($50 million). Beyond that, there are no details about which school districts would qualify for funding, and at what pace the projects can be completed. Voter approval calls for bonds to be paid off using statewide revenue, not local property taxes. Read available information here. In contrast, Maple Shade's bond proposals spell out a multi-focus package of improvements that include some school security enhancements and some water-related upgrades (antiquated and/or non-functioning water fountains), as well as many projects that do not fall under the umbrella of the statewide bond plan. Decisions have been made at the local level, and the payoff would come through local property taxes. While it's possible that some security measures could be covered through the state bond system, that route is a waiting game with questionable outcomes. If half the $350 million went to security projects, and it was equally divided among the state's K-12 districts, Maple Shade could get about $31,500 to spend under the state's timeline with the state's strings attached. That's purely a guess since the legislation was short on details for distribution. The plan proposed through the local Dec. 11 bond referendum would give Maple Shade more control.
Q. How would these proposals address security? 
A. With voter approval, several layers of security would be added at Maude Wilkins, Yocum and Steinhauer schools. Plans call for secure entrance vestibules to manage visitors, protective film on exterior windows, upgraded classroom doors and locks, video cameras, and improved exterior lighting, doors and locks. The proposal would cover costs of an expanded door-control system, as well as emergency alert systems including horns and strobe lights at large gathering points such as gyms and auditoriums. Originally, the bond proposal also included funding to add those security measures to the High School, but the district successfully applied for a $1.2 million grant from Burlington County to cover those costs. That High School work will be done without bond funding and without a property tax increase.
Q. What parts of the bond proposals involve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? 
A. Several areas of Maple Shade School District could be made more accessible for people who have mobility or other disability issues, whether that is a broken ankle, visual or hearing impairment, or wheelchair use. Voter approval of Question 1 would help us meet the federal law that addresses those needs. At each school, proposed site work includes new ramps, curb cuts, and main entrance modifications. Renovations to hallway restrooms would be ADA-compliant, as would new science labs, water fountains, and fire alarm systems. Additionally, voter approval of Question 2 would provide funding to rebuild front steps and install a new ramp at the MSSD Business Office. 
Q. When is the deadline to register to vote in the Dec. 11 bond referendum?
A. Voters had to be registered by Tuesday, November 20 to vote on Maple Shade’s bond referendum.
Q. When and where will the election take place? 
A. Registered Maple Shade voters will be able to cast ballots on Tuesday, December 11.  Polls will be open from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Find your local polling location by entering your address in the NJ Polling Locator found at https://voter.njsvrs.com/elections/polling-lookup.html or check the list below: Vote
Q. Are Vote-By-Mail ballots available? 
A. Voting by mail is a convenient way to participate in the Dec. 11 bond referendum, and New Jersey does not require a voter to state a reason for using this method. Download, print, fill in and mail a Vote-By-Mail ballot application, and be sure it is received in the County Clerk's Office by Tuesday, December 4. That office will mail you a ballot, which must be filled in and postmarked by Dec. 11. There are other timelines that allow voters to apply for and submit a ballot in person, and those are detailed on the Vote-By-Mail application. 
Q. Is it true that New Jersey will mail ballots to certain voters, which could cause confusion if those voters show up at the polls? 
 A. New Jersey’s new rules require county clerks to send Vote By Mail ballots to all voters who requested them for the 2016 General Election. Even if a voter didn’t request a mail-in ballot for Maple Shade’s Dec. 11 referendum, one may show up in his or her mailbox. Those names will be on a list at the polls, and those voters will initially be denied the opportunity to enter the voting booth.

If that happens to a voter who did not return his/her ballot, or was initially denied the opportunity to vote for another reason, he/she should be prepared to ask for a Provisional Ballot. Those paper ballots are sorted through after polls close, and added to the tally if the voters were rightfully registered but didn’t vote another way.

Any voter who is initially denied the opportunity to use a voting booth can request a Provisional Ballot, an envelope to seal it in, and a private place to mark it. He can hand the sealed envelope to a poll worker, or drop it into the collections bag himself.

After the votes are counted, a voter can call 1-877-NJVOTER (1-877-658-6837) to find out whether their ballot was counted, or learn the reason it was rejected.

Q. What will happen with any leftover funds?  
A.  If there are any leftover funds from the bond proceeds, they may be used for tax relief the following audited year after completion of the project.  If the board determines that any balance on hand is no longer needed for the purpose for which the bonds were issued but wanted to use the funds for other purposes for which bonds could be issued, the board would have to submit a question to the legal voters for the district and state such other purposes to use proceeds at a special election. (18A-24-51)

 Q. How does the bid process work? Specifically, how are the sub-contractors selected?

Like other public entities, Maple Shade will follow the rules dictated by NJ Statutes Title 18A Chapter 18A, Public School Contracts Law, Article 5, Bidding. Voter approval on Dec. 11 would move this proposal to the next stage of very detailed specifications that would be made available to union and non-union bidders. Contractors must be registered to work with public school districts, and they must be able to meet the project specifications. They can select sub-contractors to meet those specifications, and according to NJ law, all workers on the projects must be paid the “Prevailing Wage” as set by the state. Bids will be opened in a public session, and they will be available for inspection in the Board of Education Office. By law, a public school district in New Jersey must accept the lowest bid that is submitted, so long as it meets the specifications of the project.