Historic public schools take the New Jersey and Federal legislative spotlights
Senator Diane Allen has introduced a bill that is stirring a lot of excitement in New Jersey’s historic preservation community. Bill S980, introduced February 4, would “require school facilities projects to maintain the character of historic school facilities” in the state of New Jersey. Incredibly, this legislation would mandate that school
districts work with historic preservation professionals to not only identify schools with historic significance but further, preserve and rehabilitate the historic character of these facilities as a requirement for approval of any project affecting these facilities. Particularly in light of the recent fights to save Trenton Central High School and Camden High School, and recent losses, including Central School in Somerville and Richmond Avenue School in Atlantic City, the importance of this legislation clearly cannot be overstated.
And as PNJ and our community partners work diligently to locate co-sponsors and supportive NJ Assembly members (YOU CAN HELP! see below) , there’s more unprecedented legislative news for historic schools, this time at the Federal level.
The Rehabilitation of Historic Schools Act of 2010, introduced in the House (H.R.4113) in November 2009 and then in the Senate (S. 2970) just a few weeks ago, would “exempt public school rehabilitation from the tax-exempt use exception to the Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit.” Basically, this act would open up an entirely new funding opportunity for school facilities projects, one that can only be obtained via appropriate rehabilitation. This legislation would allow local governments to obtain funding for historic school rehabilitation by partnering with private developers to pursue the Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit, something that’s currently restricted by the tax credit law. Particularly in this era of ever-shrinking municipal budgets, the potential this bill has to spur desperately needed rehabilitation projects, and thereby, job creation and community revitalization, is immense.
YOU CAN HELP: If ever there was a need for a grassroots voice for historic schools, this is it! Call or write your New Jersey and U.S. legislators: let them know that this legislation is important to their constituents! Encourage them to co-sponsor or otherwise support these bills for the sake of not only historic school buildings, but all of the children educated in them and all of the communities bolstered by them.
Also, point us toward historic schools in your local communities by posting suggestions as comments here. Help us show legislators how significant and unique our historic school buildings really are, and why they could (and should) never be replaced!