Seventeen Sussex County school districts are among the 261 districts statewide scheduled to share in nearly $450 million in school construction funds.
The state Department of Education (DOE) and New Jersey Schools Development Authority (SDA) announced the approval of the money to address critical facilities needs on Thursday, Sept. 7.
About $350 million will come from the state’s Debt Defeasance and Prevention Fund, which was established two years ago to help pay down existing debt and avoid incurring new debt by funding projects outright rather than through new borrowing.
“This funding is part of a state and local partnership that will invest in hundreds of school projects while saving a significant amount of taxpayer dollars. Coupled with an infusion of local funding, this collaboration will generate more than $1 billion in important upgrades to schools throughout New Jersey,” said Gov. Phil Murphy.
Angelica Allen-McMillan, acting commissioner of education, said, “This funding demonstrates our ongoing commitment to providing safe, modern learning environments.
“In addition, improving the physical and safety conditions of school buildings improves working conditions for teachers and elevates the pride and support of the school community as a whole. This funding will benefit countless students in hundreds of schools throughout New Jersey.”
The DOE selected the school projects receiving grant funds, and the grants are administered by the SDA. Projects were identified by need, such as the repair or replacement of structural components, mechanical/heating and cooling, and electrical systems; repair or replacement of roofs; and resolving building code issues.
The funding will provide for numerous high-priority upgrades, including 320 HVAC systems, 79 boilers or water heaters, and 211 roofs.
Besides the $449.9 million in state funding, local contributions totaling $598.5 million are estimated to bring the total cost of construction to more than $1 billion.
The state-funded grants represent at least 40 percent of eligible costs for projects to address health and safety issues and other critical needs.
Funding for the school construction initiative was made possible through legislation signed in 2022 and grant funding from SDA allocations.
“Where we invest taxpayer money reflects our priorities and we will always put our kids first,” said Senate President Nicholas Scutari. “Now, with the help of union workers, our schools will be safer and more inviting for our children and teachers.”
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin said, “This critical funding is the latest investment we are making in New Jersey’s school districts. By providing financial support for these construction projects, our school districts can focus on investing in our children and our teachers, without worrying about allocating funds for costly building repairs.”
Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz pointed to schools throughout the state closing early last week because of the heat. “It is clear our educational infrastructure is not only dated and deteriorating but also ill-equipped to handle our changing climate.
“While it is just a start, it is wonderful to see money getting out the door to allow districts to make much needed improvements to their facilities. I look forward to seeing the impact these projects have on the children of New Jersey.”