LOCH ARBOUR, N.J. – Taxpayers in Loch Arbour are paying $143,000 for each student who attends the Ocean Township School District, and they’re not happy about it.
Loch Arbour officials recently won permission from New Jersey Commissioner of Education to break away from the school district after subsidizing the education students from other municipalities that pay into the system for years, the Asbury Park Press reports.
Mayor Paul Fernicola told the news site the “gross disparity” in payments compared to other nearby municipalities stems from the distribution of local tax money. Loch Arbour, a small community of 200 residents along the Atlantic Ocean that broke away from the township in 1957, last year sent 16 students to Ocean schools but was required to pay $2 million into the system, which educates a total of roughly 3,500 kids, according to the news site.
The arrangement meant Loch Arbour paid about $125,000 per student to attend Ocean schools, compared to about $16,000 per pupil paid by Ocean taxpayers. For the current school year, it’s costing Loch Arbour roughly $143,000 per student, Fernicola said.
“When we filed the petition [the student population] was 16,” he told the Ashbury Park Sun. “But it is now believed to be 13 since we had three senior students enrolled last year.”
Fericola said the situation has forced senior residents on fixed incomes to sell homes they’ve owned for decades because they can’t afford the sky-high school taxes.
Loch Arbour started the process to change school districts to West Long Branch schools in 2015, and state education Commissioner Kimberly Harrington recently approved the move if Loch Arbour taxpayers vote to make it official, though Ocean school officials plan to appeal the decision.
“The district said the loss of Loch Arbour will force cuts to about 20 staff and student clubs and athletics,” the Press reports.
“I can confirm that we will appeal the Commissioner of Education’s decision but I can say little else at this time,” Superintendent of Schools James Stefankiewicz told the Sun last month.
According to the news site:
The large tax burden was a result of the 2008-09 Student Funding Reform Act [SFRA] put in place under the Corzine administration, … Prior to that, Loch Arbour was taxed on a 110 percent per pupil calculation or a flat $300,000 levy, whichever was higher. The incorporated village school tax appropriation jumped from $300,000 to $1.8 million and today averages $2.1 million. …
Property owners would garner an estimated $11,000 to $12,000 annual tax savings since the per pupil cost would equate to an estimated $16,000 to $17,000 annual tax bill. …
For Ocean Township taxpayers, the transition will mean an estimated $166 increase to their annual tax bill.
Fernicola said Loch Arbour is now moving forward with a special election to ask village taxpayers if they want to ditch the Ocean school system, and he’s confident they’ll approve the decision.
“We will move forward with the special election because we have a decision in our favor,” Fernicola told the Sun. “Just because Ocean will appeal, we will be moving ahead with the decision to send our students to West Long Branch schools and Shore Regional High School.”
“I think most people will want the change from the oppressive taxes we have been paying,” Fernicola said.
He also criticized Ocean school officials for appealing the state’s ruling.
“The bottom line is that it is clear that the Board of Education tactic is to try to delay the implementation of this decision so that they can exhort another windfall of over $2 million for the 13 kids in Loch Arbour,” he said.