An application for a state grant to help fix school buildings has been approved, allowing the partial roof replacements at four schools to proceed.
Hillsborough's grant totals $1,199,604, according to the state Department of Education, 40 percent of the total projected cost of $2,999,010 for the work at Hillsborough High, Hillsborough Middle, Auten Road Intermediate and Hillsborough Elementary schools.
"Roofs are considered Level 1 projects by the state, which is the highest priority and the ones we felt would have the best chance for funding," Gregory Somjen, the district's architect for the projects, said. "We are developing schedules for these projects now that approvals have been received."
Somjen said most of the work is expected to be done in the summer.
The grants, known as ROD grants—or Regular Operating Districts grant—were offered to districts in June. To qualify, districts needed to be able to provide the balance of the cost of any projects from current capital funds.
“We’re pleased to announce this funding to districts to assist in the cost of local construction,” Department of Education Commissioner Chris Cerf said in announcing state approval of $21,131,896 in grants for 74 projects, including Hillsborough's. “This state and local partnership will go a long way in making sure that Somerset County students have safe, modern facilities for learning.”
School districts have been facing tightening budget restrictions in recent years, with caps on the amount of increases in tax rates, as well as limits on surplus funds available, making large or expensive projects difficult. Many districts jumped at the chance to have the state assistance for projects already under discussion.
The Board of Education's decision to seek the grants for the roof projects kicked several other projects further down the road.
"The district has been discussing other projects like the HVAC systems and other energy-related projects," Somjen added. "Those have not yet been submitted to the Department of Education—they are being investigated and more clearly identified as we speak."
Some of those projects may be rolled into a contract to take advantage of the state's Energy Savings Improvement Program, with the district contracting with a company to develop and implement a complete list of work at all schools designed to save the district at least enough in reduced power and heating and cooling expenses to cover the costs of the work ( Bridgewater-Raritan schools are nearing completion of a $8.5 million ESIP project).
"Again some of these may also start next summer, based on a variety of factors, but will take longer to execute based on the scope," Somjen said.