Funds will go to expanding career-training facilities at high schools and county colleges, tightening school security, and getting lead out of drinking water at Garden State schools
By Tom Johnson
Voters yesterday narrowly approved incurring $500 million in new debt to pay for a wide range of initiatives aimed at upgrading educational facilities in New Jersey.
With 99 percent of votes counted, the only public question on this fall’s ballot passed by roughly 85,000 votes of nearly 2 million cast. The approval continued a trend in which voters have authorized new borrowing; the last proposed bond issue to be defeated was in 2007.
The victory margin of less than 100,000 is small compared with prior bond questions. The measure lost in Atlantic, Cape May, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Salem, Sussex, and Warren counties. These are all counties that went for Republican Bob Hugin in his unsuccessful bid for Bob Menendez’s Senate seat.
The bond issue will fund expansion of career-training facilities at high schools and county colleges, upgrade school security, and protect students from lead, increasingly found in drinking water in school systems around the state.
Bipartisan support for ballot question
The borrowing enjoyed bipartisan support in the Legislature, as well as backing from prominent business groups and advocates for vocational-technical schools. Initially, lawmakers approved a $1 billion bond issue, but Gov. Phil Murphy, expressing concerns about the state’s significant debt burden, cut the borrowing in half in a conditional veto.
“We think this will be a game changer for workforce development in New Jersey,’’ said Judy Savage, executive director of the New Jersey Council of Vocational-Technical Schools. “It will provide a tremendous boost to New Jersey’s economy. The investment will expand technical shops and labs at vocational schools and county colleges and provide young people with well-paying jobs in today’s economy.’’