A New Jersey school bond proposal that was expanded after February’s Florida shooting massacre is a step closer to reaching voters.
The State Senate and Assembly both overwhelmingly approved legislation to put a $1 billion borrowing proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot for school security upgrades, vocational education expansion and water infrastructure improvements in school facilities. Original plans called for a $500 million general obligation bond proposal aimed at boosting vocational-technical school opportunities. That proposal was expanded after the Feb. 14 massacre by a lone gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that killed 17.
“Creating comprehensive school security programs is one of the most critical ways we can safeguard our students, our teachers, and our communities from outside threats,” said State Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Denville, who sponsored the bipartisan senate bill with Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester and Senator Steve Oroho, R-Franklin. “I am proud to work with Senate President Sweeney and Senator Oroho on this lifesaving legislation.”
‘The measure, titled the “Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act,” advanced to Gov. Phil Murphy for his signature after passing the Senate by a 37-1 vote on July 1, 10 days after the Assembly passed it 76-0. If approved, $450 million would be allocated to kindergarten through 12th grade school facility security grants along with $400 million for vocational school district career and technical education grants. The legislation, which Governor Murphy must sign by Aug. 28 to reach the November ballot, also earmarks $100 million for school district water infrastructure improvement grants as well as $50 million for county college career and technical education grants.
“New Jersey’s county vocational school districts and county colleges have established and advanced career and technical education programs, but the demand for such programs far outweighs their availability,” Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, D-Cherry Hill, said in a statement. “This investment can help repair this imbalance, as well as provide funding for school security upgrades, which everyone can agree is a worthy cause.”
New Jersey has had success with recent bond referendums including a $125 million borrowing last year to fund library capital projects throughout the state. Garden State voters also approved a $750 million bond proposition in 2012 for enhancements to public colleges and universities.
New Jersey’s bonded debt totaled $46.1 billion at the end of the 2017 fiscal year, according to the Department of Treasury’s annual financial report released on March 29. The state has general oblication ratings of A3 by Moody’s Investors Service, A-minus by S&P Global Ratings and A by both Fitch Ratings and Kroll Bond Rating Agency. Among the 50 U.S. states, only Illinois has lower debt ratings .