Although voting machines in two of the 13 districts in Warren Township are malfunctioning and cannot print results, preliminary results of the majority of voting districts in the three sending towns of Warren, Watchung and Long Hill Township indicate a vote of 1,045 yes and 607 against, Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett said in an announcement at about 10:20 p.m. on Tuesday.
Earlier during the day, voters in those towns had considered a referendum question of whether taxpayers should fund about $7.5 million of a $12.5 million list of projects identified as the regional high school district as critical. The state has pledged to fund the remaining $5 million through a statewide school construction initiative.
"We will not have the final results until tomorrow," Jewett said in the email on Tuesday night.
Results still were not available on Wednesday morning, Jewett said. But she said that the school district is anticipating the start the steam pipe project in April, as soon as the heat can be turned off in the building. "As for the other projects — we will be developing a timeline and reporting out at future board meetings," the superintendent noted.
But the superintendent added that on Tuesday night that, "I am overcome with excitement for the outcome and gratitude for the support shown by the community."
The items on the list included malfunctioning steam pipes dating back more than 50 years, malfunctioning or non-functioning roof ventilation units, a soggy roof, improvement of an unpaved emergency access road incapable of accommodating maintenance or emergency vehicles, repaving, redesign of the school cafeterias and more.
WHRHS Business Administrator Tim Stys told the audience last week that if the referendum doesn't pass, the problems still will need to be fixed — and at a higher cost. "It's guaranteed later [they] will cost more," Stys said. "You have the state aid; in the future you don't know."
He said the projects listed in the referendum, which also include the replacement or repairs of two-thirds of exhaust fans that bring fresh air in and out of the building, are listed by the state as "tier one" — meaning they affect health and safety.
According to school district figures, the impact of approving the referendum on the property taxes in the local towns are: Long Hill Township, another annual $46 in property tax on a home valued at $383,929; in Warren Township, another annual $53 on a home valued at $643,250; and in Watchung Borough, another $48 in a home valued at $628,724. Green Brook sends students to the high school on a tuition-paying basis.