Hoboken referendum for $241 million high school fails

Voters shut down a referendum to create a new Hoboken high school. Image provided by the Hoboken Public School District..

A Hoboken referendum to create a $241 million high school failed at the polls on Tuesday, with voters disapproving it by a wide margin after a long and contentious period to decide on whether or not to create it.

According to unofficial tallies by the Hudson County Clerk’s office, the “no” votes cruised ahead with 4,929 votes compared to the “yes” votes of 2,542.

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The referendum was on whether or not to approve a 30-year bond issue to create the new high school, which would have had a capacity of 1,200 students and would’ve been built on JFK Stadium.

The new high school had been pitched by the Board of Education since last November as a way to fit the needs of a growing population in the city, citing significant enrollment growth in the lower grades recently as evidence that a bigger school would be needed.

The facility would have been four stories tall and would have come with athletics and arts facilities that both students and members of the public could use. Most notably, it would have had 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.

The project had drawn a number of supporters and detractors across the Mile Square City. Detractors had notably grilled the board over the lack of transparency and the tax burden that the project would cause, with a group of residents opposed to it having organized efforts to advocate on voting no.

The project was also opposed by Councilmembers Tiffanie Fisher and Ruben Ramos. “This was a tough election for Hoboken around a critically important issue – our students,” said Fisher. “Every one of us wants to see our students thrive. I hope we can work together as a community and support the BOE on an amazing plan we can all get behind next year.”

On the flipside, the project had the support of Mayor Ravi Bhalla, who said that it would have been “a historic, once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring our high school facility to the 21st century,” Councilmembers Emily Jabbour, Jim Doyle, Phil Cohen and Joe Quintero, and Ron Bautista, president of the Progressive Democrats of Hudson County.

“While the will of the voters has made it clear that the Board of Education’s current proposal for the new high school will not move forward, I sincerely believe that the effort to improve our public schools will continue,” said Bhalla in a statement. “With the vote now over, it is my hope that stakeholders will work on a revised plan collaboratively, that will meet the needs of our growing school population, and reflect resident feedback. ”

The new high school was projected to cost about $241,050,000 and would have been paid for by selling 30-year bonds, which in turn would have cost property owners about $93 for each $100,000 of a property’s valuation, or about $490 annually for the average household in Hoboken.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mark Koosau can be reached at mkoosau@hudsonreporter.com or his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.