If the question is defeated, Bancroft officials say, they will scrap plans to sell and instead modernize the campus on Kings Highway East, which the school has occupied for 120 years.
Two organizations - One Haddonfield, which favors the purchase, and Haddonfield United, which opposes it - are mobilizing voters. Both are using websites, lawn signs, and shoe leather to get the word out through leaflets or door hangers. One Haddonfield sent out a mailing to recent graduates and printed T-shirts. Ads are appearing in local papers.
Thanks to a $3,500 donation to One Haddonfield by Bancroft, the group has raised more than similar groups formed to support an $18.3 million school improvements bond referendum in 2000 and a 2006 vote on whether to create an Open Space Trust Fund. As of Friday, the group had raised $5,395, including the Bancroft donation.
Haddonfield United has raised about $1,600, founder Brian Kelly said.
The district put out its views through its several-thousand-member parent and community e-mail list.
The $3,500 Bancroft donation drew rebukes from some opponents angry that it got involved in the referendum.
Bancroft's president and chief executive officer, Toni Pergolin, said in a statement that "One Haddonfield is a community-based organization that has been working hard to provide facts about the referendum so Haddonfield residents can make an informed decision. When they asked Bancroft to support their efforts, we were pleased to do so."
Lee Pease, One Haddonfield's treasurer, said: "We're not necessarily supporting Bancroft; Bancroft is supporting us to get the information out, and that does not come free. . . . It's natural to get money from a group that also wants the referendum passed."
Haddonfield United members have made opposition to higher taxes the centerpiece of their campaign. Borough residents now have the second-highest average tax bill in Camden County - $12,792 for a house assessed at the borough average - and it ranks in the top 10 percent statewide.
Sale opponents also say the sale price is inflated, citing a 2005 appraisal valuing the site at $8 million, well below the $12.2 million proposed purchase price. Bond supporters say the 2005 valuation assumed the tract would be sold for single-family houses; a 2012 appraisal assuming "institutional use," (for a public or private school, for example) set the value at $15.1 million.
Referendum opponents say that a June school facilities repair survey by the district listing more than $28 million in possible future projects is evidence that taxes will go up even more, to pay for that work.
At a PTA meeting last week, Haddonfield superintendent Richard Perry said the survey was a "wish list," not an action plan. Board member Heather Paoli said none of the repairs was "mission critical."
In an interview, Haddonfield United founder Kelly criticized the PTA meeting format, under which only Perry and school board member Maureen Eyles made presentations, both favoring the purchase. "Everybody should have an equal voice," Kelly said. "We felt that our rebuttal was suppressed."
Beth Glennon, the PTA officer who presided over the meeting, said it followed the normal agenda, in which the superintendent and a board member make presentations.
Critics point out that though the referendum proposal does not specify artificial turf for the new school field, it includes enough money - $1.2 million for the field and parking - for an artificial surface. Some residents have cost and safety concerns about turf.
Perry told the PTA parents that the referendum allows the school board to decide in the future whether to install turf. The same is true, he said, for future educational facilities, which would be proposed when it is clear what is needed and would require another referendum vote.
Mike Betley, a district parent who attended the PTA meeting, said he liked what he heard. "This is an opportunity for growth - to expend our already desirable school system," he said. The flexibility to determine future projects only when they are closer at hand "stood out; I liked that," he said.
But Beth Zigmund, who opposes the purchase, said the proposal includes "only money for a field; the Board of Education does not even estimate what the future educational cost" - and the taxes to pay for it - would be. She added: "We moved here for the great schools but we might have to move out again. The incentive to leave here grows as the taxes go up."
Contact Dan Hardy at 856-779-3858 or email@example.com, or follow on Twitter @DanInq.