, and officials met last week to discuss a public purchase of the 18.7-acre Bancroft campus on Kings Highway East, adjacent to .
The meeting was not public because there was not a quorum of public officials from either board.
Commissioner Ed Borden said he participated in the meeting along with borough Administrator Sharon McCullough, school board President Steve Weinstein and Superintendent Richard Perry. Borden described it as, "a very preliminary meeting to explore the parameters of a deal."
He said the school board is "working with a very compressed" time frame to get a referendum on the ballot this year, by Sept. 24. If it doesn't happen then, they can't do it until January 2013, he said.
"In order to get it on the ballot, they need to submit the information to the state Department of Education by late May," Borden said.
The school board is promoting a for current and future school use and open space.
The borough estimated a public purchase could cost up to $19.52 million, with $14.27 million in financing.
The commissioners agreed to work with the BOE to approach Bancroft for a purchase price, but also agreed the borough will need to be the lead developer. They said only the borough can apply for open-space grants for the property, which account for an estimated $3.5 million of the estimated acquisition cost.
The plan is projected to costs the typical Haddonfield residential taxpayer $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 a private golf course. Haddonfield's property tax bills are 27 percent higher than Voorhees, $8,777.41, third in the county.
The borough also has the responsibility of meeting Haddonfield's obligation to build up to 20 low- to moderate-income housing units on the site. The Bancroft site is included in a limited area that can possibly be developed for state-mandated, low-income homes in this 2.5-square-mile borough.
Borden said Bancroft officials told them they have "multiple sites where they can move" if the property is sold.
One potential remaining stumbling block is the price of the property. The borough and school board believe it is worth $12 million. Bancroft thinks it's worth $15 million. Borden admitted neither side has a current appraisal.
The commissioners are considering three options for the redevelopment. They are:
- A public purchase for active and passive recreational use, including open space and additional athletic fields
- Market-rate town homes
- Age-restricted, senior housing
Commissioners have also said they may decide on a combination of the three.
Bancroft, a center for people with developmental disabilities and acquired brain injuries, has been located on the site at 425 Kings Highway East for the past 128 years.