School Funding

Little Falls NJ schools to vote on $29 million referendum

LITTLE FALLS — A year after voters rejected a $35 million referendum, the school district has scaled back the plan and will return to voters for approval in December.

On Tuesday, school administrators approved a new $29.6 million referendum, a $5.8 million cut from the 2021 plan, which was defeated 839-489 last December.

Undeterred, Superintendent of Schools Tracy Marinelli said the district hopes to bring the issue back to voters on Dec. 13, a tentative date pending approval from the state Department of Education.

“Just because he was defeated doesn’t mean the problems are gone,” Marinelli said.

The district is still trying to find ways to accommodate a pre-kindergarten program for 3- and 4-year-olds, which the state plans to one day make mandatory. The new referendum plans to add pre-K classrooms, music classrooms and a library to School No. 2.

The state, the superintendent said, does not provide construction assistance to the district for the construction of pre-K classrooms. Funding comes when the district is ready to add a pre-K program for all students.

Hoping to win support from local voters, Marinelli, the School Board and the Community Facilities Upgrading Committee held a community forum to provide information Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria of School No. 1 , 32 Stevens Ave.

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School 1’s cafeteria is among the features the district hopes to expand and extend the time students have for lunch. Currently, students must have lunch in 20-minute shifts.

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The district also needs to replace warped flooring and remove asbestos floor tiles from some classrooms.

The referendum also addresses security issues and calls for modification of exterior gates and other enhanced security measures.

“The items placed in the referendum are about the safety and facility improvements that are necessary to bring our buildings and our students into the 21st century and beyond,” said school board chairman Thomas Breitwieser.

Marinelli said that despite losing the referendum last year, the district was able, through grants from the energy and gas utility as well as elementary and secondary school emergency funding grants, to replace aging and inefficient school boilers and other efficiencies.