TRENTON, NJ-When it was launched four years ago, the state’s $8.6-billion school construction program figured to help beef up New Jersey’s construction industry, and it has done just that. The Schools Construction Corp., which was set up to oversee the program, has just approved another $408 million work of projects, including eight new schools and major overhauls of two others.

And, according to Jack Spencer, who heads the SCC, the latest projects have the program on track to generate a total of $1 billion worth of construction contracts for the current calendar year. Altogether, the effort has added just under $2 billion worth of business for New Jersey contractors since the year 2000.

Among the projects just approved, according to Spencer, is a $123-million renovation of Trenton Central High School here. It’s the most expensive project yet approved by the state, and it’s so extensive that it won’t even be finished until the 2009 school year.

The latest round also includes a new high school building in the city of Harrison, a $47.5-million project that has gone to Terminal Construction Corp., based in Wood-Ridge, as well as a new high school building in Paterson. The various other projects are in the cities of Asbury Park, East Orange, Long Branch, Irvington, Vineland and West New York.

Current estimates by state officials are that the cap of $8.6 billion worth of projects could be reached by as early as the middle of 2006. The way the program is set up, according to officials, is that $6 billion of that total is actually coming from state coffers. The remaining $2.6 billion is coming from local and county funds, depending upon the specific project.

In the case of the new high school building in Harrison, for example, $44 million is coming from the state pool of money earmarked for school construction. The remaining $3.5 million is being footed by residents of the city. The approximately $2 billion worth of projects authorized to date involve more than two dozen schools throughout the Garden State.

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