Everything to know about Referendum 2023

“Approving the referendum would shape the day-to-day experience of students and also make significant upgrades to individual programs, including STEM, athletics, and performing arts.”

Gianna Jakubowski, Co-Editor-in-Chief

On March 14, the residents of  Bridgewater Township and the Borough of Raritan will vote on a Referendum that is proposed by Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District (BRRSD).

A sign for the proposed Referendum 2023 is displayed at BRHS. (Courtesy of Gianna Jakubowski)

The two communities will be asked to decide on a two-question $155 million plan to renovate facilities district-wide while implementing a full-day kindergarten program.

The first question of Referendum 2023 will ask school district residents to vote to approve $120 million to upgrade all 11 schools in the district. This question contains a zero tax impact on the communities.

Principal Daniel Hemberger of Bridgewater-Raritan High School (BRHS) further details these renovations.

“The Referendum 2023 is an opportunity to have generational updates at BRHS.  It includes repairs to the facilities that would affect every student, every day, such as improved ventilation and air conditioning, as well as resurfaced common areas, sidewalks, and pavement,” he says.

If the first question passes, only then can the second question be approved.

The second question, which has a projected cost of $34 million, proposes an addition to the Middle School, creating a traditional middle school environment spanning grades 6-8.  Adding sixth grade to the current Middle School would free up space at the primary schools, allowing the district to implement a full-day kindergarten program. Under this proposal, the Primary schools will include grades K-3, Intermediate schools will include grades 4-5, and the Middle School will include grades 6-8.

Bridgewater-Raritan is one of just 11 school districts in New Jersey that do not offer full-day kindergarten.

Contrary to the first part of the referendum, the second part includes a tax increase. It is projected that taxes on a Bridgewater home valued at $465,000 will increase by $111 per year, and taxes on a Raritan home valued at $321,630 will increase by $84 per year. These projections are based on a 4.5 percent interest rate.

Brochures are displayed on a table in the 100 Building of BRHS for students and staff to take. (Courtesy of Gianna Jakubowski)

However, the state of New Jersey is offering $42 million in debt service aid if this referendum were passed. The cost of the first part of the referendum would actually be $83,766,396, and the second part $29,388,077. The total cost of the referendum would be $113,154,779, rather than the original projected $155 million.

Information about the referendum is posted on BRRSD’s website. The website’s main page for the district and all 11 schools contain a Referendum 2023 Information page and numerous stories and information.

There have been Referendum 2023 voting signs posted around the communities in the school district and brochures that you can find at each school. The school district administration has held numerous meetings with school groups,  including sessions with the Parent Teacher Organizations and parent associations.

In addition, a Referendum 2023 Community Forum will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 21, in the BRHS auditorium at 6 p.m.  All residents of Bridgewater and Raritan are invited to attend an informative meeting that will discuss and review Referendum 2023.

BRHS has a large sign advertising Referendum 2023 in front of the school. (Courtesy of Gianna Jakubowski)

Superintendent Bob Beers and the President of Solutions Architecture Frank Mesineo, the firm that will handle the project, will also be giving a brief presentation of Referendum 2023 during the Education Foundation of Bridgewater-Raritan’s annual “An Evening Out of Education” fundraising dinner on Friday, Feb. 24, at Somerville Elks Lodge. That affair will begin at 6 p.m., with the presentation scheduled for 6:45 p.m.

Principal Hemberger sums up the impact Referendum 2023 would have if passed.

Approving the referendum would shape the day-to-day experience of students and also make significant upgrades to individual programs, including STEM, athletics, and performing arts. In many ways, even the public would benefit, particularly with enhancements to the auditorium and Basilone Field. It’s a very exciting possibility!”

Click HERE for more information on BRRSD Referendum 2023.