Hoboken voters will head to the polls on Tuesday Jan. 25 to decide the fate of a proposed new high school that has been the focus of a great deal of controversy. With the referendum approaching, here is what you need to know about the proposal.
What is the proposed high school?
The proposed high school has been pitched by the Board of Education since last November, although one major criticism is that the school board hasn’t done enough to include public input and debate.
The plan would create a 1,200 student high school built on the existing JFK Stadium. The board has said that the new school is meant to fit the needs of a growing student population in the city, citing significant enrollment growth in the lower grades recently as evidence that a bigger school will be needed.
At four stories tall, the new facility would come with athletic and arts facilities that both students and members of the public can use. Most notably, it would have a third floor roof and field track, a hockey rink and other sports facilities, new classrooms, science and art rooms, and an auditorium and black box theatre, amongst other features.
How much will it cost?
The projected cost of $241,050,000 would be paid for by selling 30-year bonds. The referendum is to determine whether to approve the bond issue.
According to a budget document posted on the school district’s website, construction hard costs such as exterior and interior work, services, and build site work would cost $186,376,968 million, and soft costs such as architectural, engineering, and project management would cost $54,673,032.
The cost of the project for property owners is estimated to be about $93 for each $100,000 of a property’s valuation. For the average household in Hoboken that would be about $490 annually.
What do people think about it?
The board has hosted a number of public meetings to hear feedback which have attracted both supporters and detractors.
The project has the support of Mayor Ravi Bhalla, who said in an email newsletter that he would vote yes for it.
“This is a historic, once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring our high school facility to the 21st century,” he wrote. “With a yes vote, we have the ability to take public education in Hoboken to a bright future. This is a world-class city, the time is now for it to have world-class high school facilities.”
Others who have supported the project are Council Vice President Emily Jabbour, and Ron Bautista, president of the Progressive Democrats of Hudson County.
On the other hand, the referendum has had a share of vocal detractors, who have criticized the Board of Education and the project over a lack of transparency, the anticipated tax burden, the disruption the construction will cause in an upscale residential neighborhood, and how the finances will be spent.
A group of residents led by Matt Majer, a founder of the Northwest Hoboken Homeowners Alliance, and Pavel Sokolov, the secretary of the Hoboken Republicans and the chairman of the Hudson County Young Republicans, are asking voters to say no.
Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher has also come out against the project. She wrote in an email newsletter that while she’s supportive of having a new high school, her current position is a “‘not this / not yet / no on this proposal, and please try again’.”
What if the vote succeeds?
If the referendum succeeds, construction for the project would begin in the summer of 2022. The new school would be expected to open for the beginning of the 2025-2026 school year.
If the new school is built, the current high school would be converted into a new middle school, and the current middle school would be turned into another elementary school.
How can I vote?
Polls for the referendum will be open on Jan. 25 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at all general election locations in Hoboken.
Voters have until Jan. 18 by 4:30 p.m. to apply for an absentee ballot for the election, which must be postmarked by the 25th, or submitted to the drop box located outside of City Hall or returned to County Clerk’s office by 8 p.m. that day.
The sample ballot for the referendum can be read at www.hudsoncountyclerk.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/2022-Hoboken-Special-Referendum-School-Board-Election-Sample-Ballot.pdf. A list of polling places can be found at www.hobokennj.gov/polling-locations.