Board of Education approves letter of intent

The Board of Education approved a letter of intent to purchase the Bancroft property off of Kings Highway. The vote at last week’s meeting came after three public meetings in July to discuss the joint acquisition between the Board of Education and the borough.

The borough previously unanimously approved the letter of intent.

Joe Ehrhardt was the sole board member to vote against the approval.

The assessed value of $12,192,500 is based on an assessment performed a few years ago, Ehrhardt explained, and the property is at a premium.

The appraisal process makes him uncomfortable, he said. He suggested having the new appraiser work with the former one.

Renwick & Associates Valuation Solutions, a certified firm based out of Maple Shade that is on the Green Acres list, will appraise the property for a fee of $19,500.

The results will be made public when known, board president Steve Weinstein said.

An appraisal is needed for the board, the Department of Education and for Open Space. If the appraisal results are not close enough to the purchase price, the deal may be off, Weinstein said.

A public bond referendum will be held in January to ultimately decide on the $16.8 million purchase.

To further discuss the issues of cost and safety related to turf fields, a meeting will be held in September.

The Board of Education has three main duties, Weinstein explained. They oversee the current state of the schools, decide on an annual budget for the tax rate and look to the future of the district – whether that may be five, 10 or 25 years from now.

The purchase of the Bancroft property addresses future needs, he said, in both education and athletics.

Each school building is at capacity, he said.

“There is no place for that educational purpose to grow,” he said, and it would be “good stewardship” to provide space for future expansion.

The proposal is as democratic of a process as you can get, Weinstein has repeatedly said, stating that if the public feels that it is not a beneficial purchase for the town, they will have the opportunity to vote against it.

If the public approves the referendum, Bancroft will have the opportunity to stay on-site for two years while it searches for a new campus. In the third year, it would pay $400,000 in rent. By the end of the third year, Bancroft would need to provide a plan to vacate the property. If it stays a fourth year, the rent would be $500,000.

Without a plan to leave the property, Bancroft would be in default.

“They have a great incentive to get out,” Weinstein said.

Those in attendance had many questions and concerns throughout the meeting.

While everyone might not agree with the purchase, Weinstein explained that the board members have put many unpaid hours into the issue and have tried to come to the right decision.

The next Board of Education meeting is currently scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 23 in the middle school library.

Keep up to date on the latest updates regarding the Bancroft purchase by visiting http://www.haddonfield.k12.nj.us/bancroft/.