Details about what's going on with Haddonfield's public purchase of the 19-acre Bancroft property have been scarce lately, but school board President Steve Weinstein recently spoke to Haddonfield Patch about two related issues.
The school board voted unanimously last week to sign a contract with Bancroft to provide applied behavior analysis therapists for students with developmental disabilities, such as autism. The $657,236 contract is projected to save the district $95,000 by replacing 15 in-house ABA therapists.
Weinstein said the contract has no relation to the board's ongoing effort to purchase Bancroft and does not conflict with the negotiations.
"The two things are totally independent," Weinstein said last week. "They are a major provider of special needs students in this area. I don't see any problem continuing with them while negotiating for this other stuff."
School and borough officials have not discussed the purchase publicly since closed-door negotiations with Bancroft started three months ago. The school board and the borough Board of Commissioners have only discussed the negotiation in executive sessions, which are not open to the public.
Weinstein also said a new effort to resurface two high school sports fields with artificial turf can move forward even though money to do that is included in the estimated cost of the Bancroft purchase.
The school board recently agreed to spend $150,000 toward the resurfacing of the high school football field. The money will be contingent on a private, citizen-fundraising goal of $500,000 for the $1 million project. The borough also agreed to kick in $356,000 to resurface an adjacent field owned by the borough.
Weinstein said even though there is a $2 million line item in the proposal to resurface the football field and construct and surface a new field on the property, it can be adjusted if the private/public Turf Field Committee project succeeds in its aggressive fundraising goal of $500,000. The group has raised $250,000 so far.
"If the fundraising committee raises the funds and that money is used to resurface the high school field before we go to referendum, we would obviously net out the money that's being donated from what we need to raise," he said. "I don't know if either one will come to fruition and, if so, which would come first."
The board wants to have a public referendum on the Bancroft purchase this fall. The borough declared the 19-acre Bancroft property on Kings Highway East, next the high school, as a redevelopment area. Borough officials said they would be the lead developer if residents approve the project.
The plan is projected to costs the typical Haddonfield residential property-tax payer $268.80 annually over 20 years of financing, or a total of $5,376 each. The average home assessment here is $491,000.
Haddonfield’s average property tax of $12,088.88 is nearly twice the state average at $7,776, according to the state Department of Community Affairs. Haddonfield has the second highest average property tax bill in Camden County. It trails Tavistock, an exclusive enclave at the tip of Haddonfield, enclosed mostly in an exclusive, private golf course. Haddonfield's property tax bills are 27 percent higher than Voorhees, $8,777.41, third in the county.