Buildings Who's Who - State of New Jersey Department of Education

Aug. 7, 2001
The state's Educational Facilities Construction and Financing Act is the largest public works project in the history of New Jersey

Last July, New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman signed a historical bill into law. The state's Educational Facilities Construction and Financing Act - the largest public works project in the history of New Jersey - allows the state to borrow $8.6 billion for school repairs, additions, and new facilities.

Of that amount, $6 billion will go toward projects in the 30 special-needs (Abbott) districts; $2.5 billion for non-Abbott projects; and $100 million for county vocational schools. The bill will provide state funding - in the form of cash grants or annual state aid - to cover a minimum of 40 percent of eligible construction costs in non-special-needs districts. By court order, the state will fully fund all eligible construction costs in the 30 special-needs districts.

The law also stresses planning, accountability, and educational adequacy, requiring any school district applying for state construction funding to submit a five-year plan to the state Department of Education by Dec. 15, 2001. The plan must describe how the district will address its facilities needs; its projected growth in enrollment; and the issues of health, safety, and educational requirements.

According to the New Jersey School Boards Association, the bill has already spurred construction fever among school districts. After enactment of the bill, 54 construction proposals appeared on the ballot statewide, compared to 35 in the first six months of 2000. Voter approval rates also increased, with 80.9 percent of the proposals on the ballot after July gaining approval. Additionally, the dollar amount of construction approved by voters nearly doubled - to $684.11 million - in the six months following the enactment of the bill.

In the 10 months since the Educational Facilities and Construction Financing Act was signed into law, the Department of Education has approved school construction plans totaling more than $7.3 billion for 29 Abbott school districts. In addition to Camden, New Brunswick, and Pleasantville, approvals have been granted for: Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Trenton, Keansburg, Bridgeton, Harrison, Burlington City, Hoboken, Perth Amboy, Long Branch, Irvington, Plainfield, Vineland, Phillipsburg, Millville, Neptune, Orange, Pemberton, Garfield, West New York, East Orange, Asbury Park, Passaic, Elizabeth, and Union City.

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