Frequently Asked Questions

Voter approval of Mendham Township School District’s bond referendum on Tuesday, Jan. 25 would bolster the district’s vision to provide the best education possible for Every Student, Every Day. The FAQs provide details about the referendum process and proposed projects.

School Funding 101

What exactly is a bond referendum?

A bond referendum is a process in which a school district asks voters to approve bond borrowing to finance large-scale improvements. The Mendham Township School District has chosen this strategy to generate upfront funding for facilities improvements and spread the cost of the projects over time, similar to the way a homeowner uses a home equity loan to make improvements or a business borrows funds to spur advancement. Additionally, bond approval makes the district eligible for a special kind of state aid to offset the impact on school tax bills.

How is bond borrowing a key part of the district’s fiscal strategy?

Mendham Township School District is committed to fiscal responsibility, and has invested over the years in small-scale maintenance projects as well as technology and security upgrades. However, like a well-maintained home, our schools still require more extensive work at some point – and this is that point. The buildings need large-scale upgrades and equipment to ensure the facilities continue to support the high-quality education offered to students in pre-K through 8th grade. The district sought input from the community, conducted a long-range facility plan, and worked closely with its professional advisors to create a package of improvements that would maximize state funding to the tune of 37%, while also decreasing the amount taxpayers pay for school debt.

Why is bond funding, rather than the annual operating budget, a better option for paying for these projects?

A school district’s operating budget pays for day-to-day operations. Bond funding allows the district to generate funds for certain types of larger projects by asking for voter approval to sell bonds.


The Board of Education thoroughly analyzed these funding options and determined that critical maintenance and large-scale improvements to security, safety, and technology would not fit into the regular annual budget, without trimming the projects list and impacting student experiences. Additionally, bond-funded projects qualify for state aid that is collected from taxpayers across all of New Jersey, but is earmarked only for districts that receive voter approval.

How did the district decide that now is a good time for a bond referendum?

The district’s goal is to proactively plan for long-range needs to ensure the schools are well maintained. This is especially important since the elementary school was built in 1954, and the middle school in 1972. The last facilities improvements funded by a bond referendum occurred over two decades ago. Continuous maintenance is required at both schools to replace roofs, repave parking lots, update security vestibules, and repair/replace windows, flooring, ceilings, stairs, and more.

A bond referendum fits into that financially responsible strategy. The district is acting to avoid costly emergency repairs that would fall 100% on local tax bills if they weren’t planned as part of a voter-approved bond referendum. Another incentive to borrow funds now is that municipal bond interest rates are at a historic low.

By seeking voter approval for these projects, the district would tap into state aid to cover 37% of project costs. By timing this with the expiration of existing debt from a bond, the owner of the average assessed Mendham Township home would actually see a $97 decrease in the debt service tax levy, while also funding critical improvements that maintain the health of the schools now and for the future.

What other funding sources has the district pursued?

The district has a record of fiscal responsibility and has carefully maintained its buildings and equipment to extend their lifespan.

Mendham Township also seeks out funding streams beyond the regular operating budget to help offset local costs. The district applied to participate in the state’s Energy Savings Improvement Program (ESIP) to install new HVAC control systems that are designed to regulate temperature and save energy costs, as well as energy-efficient exterior lighting. The state allows districts to pay for the improvements over time using the energy savings that are realized. The district also participates in other state and federal opportunities when they are available.

Improving Schools and Community

What projects are proposed for Mendham Township Elementary School?

At MTES, proposed projects include:

  • Renovation of special education, art, and vocal/performing arts classrooms, as well as the multipurpose room (cafeteria), Media Center, and nurse’s office

Innovation Labs to provide flexible areas for students to focus on STEM project-based learning

  • Wellness Center to provide one-stop access to counseling, mentoring, and peer-to-peer support outside the classroom

  • Upgraded security at the main entrance, and repairs/replacement of windows, flooring, ceilings, doors, and stairs

  • Improvements on the school grounds, including a new outdoor classroom pavilion with amphitheater-style seating, parking lot and basketball court repaving, façade renovations, roof replacement, playground maintenance, and new concrete sidewalks and curbs

What projects are proposed for Mendham Township Middle School?

At MTMS, voter approval would finance:

  • Creation of Innovation Labs for science experimentation and learning

  • New Health Center for athletic training (converted from an old locker room currently used for storage)

  • Media Center to include state-of-the-art technology

  • Classrooms dedicated to technology, art, and vocal/general music

  • Improvements on the school grounds, including a new outdoor classroom pavilion with amphitheater-style seating, parking lot and basketball court repaving, façade renovations, roof replacement, playground maintenance, and new concrete sidewalks and curbs

  • Upgraded security vestibule entryway, and remodeling of the main office suite, restrooms, and nurse’s office

What is an Innovation Lab, and how does it support STEM?

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math – and is a cornerstone of Mendham Township’s educational offerings. Students are encouraged and inspired to collaborate on solving real-world problems of the 21st century.


In MTES, Innovation Labs would provide flexible areas for students to create and build with their hands – and then not have to immediately take down their projects because of limited space or the next group of students needing the supplies. The space would feature areas for collaboration and technology that are considered standard in today’s learning environments.


In MTMS, science labs would be converted into Innovation Labs and would feature equipment that middle school students need to conduct experiments in preparation for high school and beyond.

How will the Health and Wellness Centers support students?

At MTMS, approval of the bond referendum would fund the renovation of an old locker room currently used for storage into a Health Center with fitness machines and other equipment for athletic training, rehabilitation, and recreation. The other locker room, used regularly by students, would remain as is. A bright, open space would give students easy access to physical activity, which can be a challenge in the digital age, and would extend the current middle school gym space. A wider variety of activities would be available in the new Health Center.


At MTES, existing classroom space would be remodeled into a Wellness Center to provide one-stop access to counseling, mentoring, and peer-to-peer support. MTSD is seeing an increase in the number of students who need emotional support to relieve stress and anxiety and improve their focus on learning. This trend is occurring in schools across the country and began before the pandemic. Counselors in Mendham Township are leading more small group discussions for students than ever before. Renovations would create dedicated space for this purpose and for students to meet with peers for support. This would improve both the developmental and academic potential of every Mendham Township student from an early age.

How will the outdoor classroom pavilions support students and the community?

The proposal calls for outdoor pavilions with accessible walking paths, amphitheater-style seating, and a covered stage at both schools. A national trend toward outdoor learning gained momentum in response to the pandemic, but also has evolved as a long-term alternative to the traditional indoor classroom setting.


We have seen firsthand the significant benefits to students of going outdoors, including improved health and focus, creativity, better sleep, decreased stress, and improved retention. Teachers could use the pavilion space to conduct lessons about environmental awareness and lead performing arts programming. The outdoor learning areas also would encourage flexibility in general instruction and provide a valuable change in atmosphere, particularly for students who have difficulty focusing in a classroom setting for a full day.


If the referendum is approved, the district plans to use this space for an outdoor theater/concert series and would allow the community to reserve the space for special events year-round, creating a long-term asset for the township.

What parts of the proposal improve security and fire safety?

The proposal would fund security upgrades at both schools, including the addition of interior fire doors and ADA-compliant access. Both schools would also see upgrades to the security vestibules. At the middle school, the vestibule front would be changed; a new window would enable transactions of paperwork and packages, and the exterior and interior double doors would be replaced. The elementary school’s main entrance security would receive the same upgrades, along with new video/intercom modifications and door release/buzzer.

How does this referendum address “needs” rather than “wants?”

Nearly half of the $19.9 million proposal covers building maintenance needs and grounds improvements including HVAC equipment to improve air quality, roof replacements, parking lot, driveway and sidewalk work; security vestibule upgrades, bathroom repairs and enhanced ADA access.

The remainder of the bond referendum would fund classroom and educational projects. Renovations would address inadequate classroom spaces, storage requirements and other practical upgrades. The proposal aims to meet students’ evolving day-to-day needs for social and emotional support, physical activity, and innovative arts and educational programming. The district prioritized technology in the proposal in response to input received during the strategic planning process and other community feedback.

The proposed projects were carefully thought out to position the district well for years to come. The Board also was mindful of pursuing improvements that would be eligible for a state aid and as a result, qualified for $7.3 million in state funds (available only if voters approve the referendum).

Would the construction add to the footprint of the buildings?

With the exception of the freestanding outdoor classroom pavilions, all of the work would be done within the existing footprint of the school buildings. Classroom space would be used more efficiently and strategically. For example, an old locker room used for storage at MTMS would be turned into a Health and Wellness Center, extending the space for physical activity and athletic training near the current gym. At MTMS, the music room would be renovated to open the space and add wall storage for storing musical instruments, while the MTES music room would have a flexible wall divider and acoustic insulation to accommodate simultaneous use by two groups of students. The projects were designed to maximize the space we already have and optimize the space utilization with more flexible wall partitions, seating and storage.

How did the district decide that these projects get priority?

The district started this process by listening to the community as part of the 2018 strategic planning process that looked at how facilities can support district programming. We also asked a citizen committee to weigh in on the projects, and then conducted a survey of township residents. Residents overwhelmingly said the schools are a driving factor in their decision to live in Mendham Township, and said they want to see additional investment in technology, laboratory and STEM classroom space, and security and safety. The Jan. 25 bond referendum gives the township a path to fund these priorities, while taking advantage of state aid.

When will construction begin, and how long is it expected to take?

Voter approval in January 2022 would allow the district to enter the planning phase of bond financing and competitive construction bids. Actual construction would begin in summer of 2022 and would be targeted for completion by summer of 2023. The district would aim to finish the work in the most expedient manner, while minimizing the impact on student learning. Construction done during the school year would take place after hours or on weekends, if needed.

What projects benefit community members who do not have children in the district?

Residents without students enrolled in the public schools would benefit from the proposed improvements in many ways. Updated facilities and outdoor classroom pavilions would benefit people who visit the schools for special events, including planned theater/musical performances.


There is a financial benefit, as replacing outdated equipment could help avoid costly emergency repairs that would have to come out of normal operating expenses and fall 100% on local tax bills.


In addition, high-quality, top-performing schools are a major factor in drawing and retaining residents to Mendham Township. A new resident survey sent to 245 township households in June 2020 found that 72% identified the quality of the schools as “very important” in their decision to move here.

School Debt Tax Decrease

What is the total estimated cost of the projects?

The total cost of the proposed projects is estimated at $19,903,197. This includes everything from construction and renovation work to professional and permit fees. It also includes a contingency to cover additional costs that could arise during the construction phase.

How much state aid would cover the project costs?

The district worked with its advisors to create a package of improvements that maximizes state aid to cover 37% of the project costs. This is an estimated $7,390,397 that the New Jersey Department of Education has committed to paying over the length of the bond pay-back period. The maximum state aid a district can receive is 40% and is dependent on the types of projects included in the proposal. This funding is collected from taxpayers statewide but is only available to districts with voter-approved bond borrowing. This helps reduce the local tax burden and returns some state revenue back to Mendham Township citizens.

How much would my property taxes decrease?

If the referendum passes, the new debt will be a lower amount than the expiring debt, so taxpayers would see a $97 per year school debt tax decrease for a home assessed at Mendham Township’s average of $905,519.

It’s also an ideal time to leverage municipal bond borrowing, as interest rates are at historic lows.

How is the assessed value of a home different from the market value of a home?

A home’s assessed value is used to calculate how much property tax a homeowner will pay. Market value is an estimate of how much a home could sell for in today’s market and is usually much higher than a home’s assessed value. The average home assessment in Mendham Township is $905,519. You can check your home’s assessed value by using this website to search for your property.

What happens if project costs are lower than estimated?

The district cannot spend more than the amount the voters authorize in a bond referendum, and can only spend on the projects outlined in the proposal. If actual costs are lower than estimated, the money is used to reduce the debt, and therefore, reduce taxes.

What happens if project costs are higher than estimated?

The district cannot spend more than the amount the voters authorize in a bond referendum, and cannot spend the money on anything except the projects outlined in the proposal. The district has thoroughly researched the project costs and built a contingency into the estimated price. If actual costs exceeded what voters approved, the district would have to adjust the plans.

What if the bond referendum does not pass on Jan. 25?

If the bond referendum fails, the district will still need to fund critical maintenance projects at the schools. Some repairs would be funded through the annual operating budget, but the district would miss out on 37% state aid to cover project costs, meaning local taxes would absorb the full amount of the projects. Other repairs may not be funded or would only receive temporary fixes that would not prevent costly deterioration. In addition, facilities would not be upgraded to provide students with the STEM instruction and other learning experiences that would better prepare them for high school.

If the referendum fails, the owner of a home assessed at the average of $905,519 would see an annual decrease of $535 in the debt service tax by 2023-2024. However, regular school taxes not associated with the debt may rise to fund the repairs through the annual operating budget and make up for the lack of state aid to cover project costs; this aid is only available with voter approval of the referendum.

How to Vote

Can I vote in the Jan. 25 bond referendum?

Anyone who is registered to vote with a Mendham Township address can participate in the Jan. 25 bond referendum. If you are unsure whether you are registered to vote at your current address, search the state database.

How can voter registration be updated for people who are new to Mendham Township or had a name/address change?

Visit the New Jersey Voter Information Portal to fill out a voter registration form online. If you prefer a paper registration form, they are available here and can be mailed to Morris County Commissioner of Registration, PO Box 900, Morristown, NJ 07963-9912.

What is the deadline for registering to vote in the bond referendum?

The deadline to register to vote in the bond referendum is Jan. 4, 2022.

How can I vote in person?

In-person voting will take place on Jan. 25, 2022 from 12 - 8 p.m. at the following locations:

Districts #1, #3, #4 and #5 – Brookside Emergency Services Building

District #2 – New Ralston Fire House

What exactly will the bond proposal question on the ballot ask?


How can I vote by mail?

Vote By Mail is an easy, convenient way to cast a ballot -- and is an option for every registered voter in Mendham Township.


If you are not already registered to Vote By Mail, you can print and mail the application to the County Clerk’s Office. To have a ballot mailed, applications must be received 7 days before the election, by Jan. 18, 2022.


Once you are registered to Vote By Mail, a ballot will be sent to you prior to the bond referendum. Remember to read the ballot closely and follow all instructions.

What is the deadline for submitting Vote By Mail ballots?

Ballots submitted by mail must be postmarked by Jan. 25, 2022. They cannot be brought to polling places, but they can brought to the county’s Board of Election office in Morristown.

Was my Vote By Mail ballot received?

Once you mail in your ballot, you can track the status of it online by creating an account through the New Jersey voter portal.

What if I show up to vote on Jan. 25 and am turned away?

If you arrive at a polling location on referendum day and are told your ballot was mailed to you, or that you cannot vote for any other reason, ask for a provisional ballot. This allows your vote to be counted once your voter eligibility is verified and after other ballots are processed.

How did the district decide that these projects get priority?

The district started this process by listening to the community as part of the 2018 strategic planning process that looked at how facilities can support district programming. We also asked a citizen committee to weigh in on the projects, and then conducted a survey of township residents. Residents overwhelmingly said the schools are a driving factor in their decision to live in Mendham Township, and said they want to see additional investment in technology, laboratory and STEM classroom space, and security and safety. The Jan. 25 bond referendum gives the township a path to fund these priorities, while taking advantage of state aid.