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Norcross: School Construction Feasible, Even In Down Economy

After Hearing From Schools Development Authority, Senator Says State Must Move Forward On Stalled Projects

(GLOUCESTER CITY) – The Joint Committee on the Public Schools’ Subcommittee on School Facilities and Construction met yesterday at the Mary Ethel Costello School in Camden County to hear from state officials on the status of school construction projects across New Jersey, which have remained largely stalled since January.

Following testimony from Schools Development Authority CEO Marc Larkins, Senator Donald Norcross, who chairs the subcommittee, said it was clear that school construction and modernization is necessary, feasible, and possible, even in this economic climate.

“Our children need and deserve safe, secure learning environments, but throughout our state we see examples of sub-standard school facilities,” said Senator Norcross (D-Camden). “Given our state’s tight financial situation, we must get the most out of our taxpayer dollars. By constructing and repairing schools, we invest in our future and provide jobs for today.”

The SDA is responsible for funding and overseeing school construction projects throughout the state in designated districts. It was established in 2000 as the Schools Construction Corporation, a response to a 1998 Court ruling mandating State funding for certain school districts’ construction needs. At yesterday’s hearing, Mr. Larkins presented the organizations bi-annual report, and stressed the economic impact of school construction and the need for the SDA to become a more modern and efficient entity.

“We need to give the working men and women of this state a foothold to allow them to begin pulling themselves out of this economic downturn,” added Senator Norcross. “School construction and the jobs it creates should be one of many opportunities we provide to New Jerseyans as we look toward economic recovery.”

Uncertainty regarding school budgets, the availability of funds from the State, and the SDA’s efforts to overhaul their internal structure has hampered construction in many parts of the State – even when badly needed.

“Right now, the economic climate is perfect for building. Labor and resource costs are down, and the small businesses that support major construction projects like these are eager to find new patrons,” said Senator Norcross. “The more we delay construction projects, the more it will cost us in the long run to try and maintain outdated, unsafe schools. We must take steps to move forward on school construction, which will help keep our kids safe and encourage our communities to grow with the support of new jobs.”

Senator Norcross was joined by his Fifth Legislative District colleagues, Assemblyman Gilbert “Whip” Wilson and Assemblyman Angel Fuentes, as well as Senator Ron Rice (D-Essex) and Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey (D-Essex).