On Tuesday, New Jersey voters narrowly agreed to take on the debt to provide an additional $350 million to county vocational schools across the state to boost enrollment and program offerings.
Although it lacked support in The Press’s coverage area, the $500 million Securing Our Children’s Future bond referendum was approved by 52% of the state.
According to Phil Guenther, superintendent of the Atlantic County Institute of Technology, the majority of the deposit will be provided to vocational schools in the state through a to-be-defined grant program that includes a 25% cost share for the ‘school.
“We’re very, very pleased that it’s passed and will hopefully allow county vocational schools across the state of New Jersey to expand opportunities for students,” Guenther said Tuesday.
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Proponents of the legislation say more career-focused training will fill a need for manufacturing and technical employees. It will also meet the capacity needs of vocational schools that turn down more than 17,000 applicants each year, according to figures from the New Jersey School Boards Association.
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“This will be a game-changer for workforce development in New Jersey and provide a tremendous boost to our state’s economy,” said Judy Savage, executive director of the New Jersey Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools. , in a public statement on Wednesday.
Guenther said ACIT turns down about half of its 1,000 applicants each year. He said the local vocational school would like to accommodate more programs aligned with the county’s economic development plan, such as aviation maintenance, as well as automotive bodywork, diesel mechanics, health sciences and building trades.
He said the fact that the grant would cover 75% of the cost of the expansion is particularly appealing because the school is usually only eligible for 40% state reimbursement for capital projects.
“We are working with an architectural firm and have been in the planning process for over a year as we review our long-term facility needs,” Guenther said, although cost figures are not yet available. available.
He said he was still waiting for information on how the grant process works.
The bond, originally proposed by Senate Speaker Steve Sweeney at $1 billion, was cut in half over the summer by Gov. Phil Murphy, who cited the state’s current debt load.
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Of the $500 million, $350 million will fund expansion of the county’s vocational technical schools and improved safety at K-12 schools, $100 million will improve water quality in school districts and the remaining $50 million will go to community colleges.
According to the NJSBA, New Jersey voters haven’t voted down a bond referendum since 2007, when they refused to borrow $450 million to support stem cell research.
On Wednesday, Moody’s released a public finance election recap and rated the New Jersey bond move as “credit positive.”
“The additional funds will enable community colleges to expand and improve facilities used for vocational and technical education programs,” the report said. “Additional state support has the potential to help colleges bolster enrollment through the expansion of career and technical education programs.”
Tuesday’s vote was close, with 1,084,057 in favor and 975,032 against, according to the latest unofficial results on Thursday.
Locally, there wasn’t much support for the link. Opponents of the bill cited state debt and the financial burden on the taxpayer on social media and in letters to the press.
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“While we understand the borrowing concerns, this investment will produce a positive return for our state,” Savage said. “As young people fill long-vacant jobs, launch careers with higher salaries, and continue to earn more over their lifetime, they will pay more income taxes. And as businesses see New Jersey develop a pool of skilled workers to meet their needs, they’ll be more likely to expand or locate here.
Contact: 609-272-7251 CLowe@pressofac.com Twitter @clairelowe