Items Include Classroom Expansion, Roof Replacement, New Turf Field |
By Jay Cook |
LITTLE SILVER – Residents of Little Silver, Red Bank and Shrewsbury Borough will be asked to vote on a two-part, $22-million referendum in December to fund a total roof replacement, classroom expansion and turf field installation at Red Bank Regional High School (RBR).
An anticipated increase to student enrollment, the reduction of income from out-of-district students and a proactivity to expand programs for all students are driving the vote, said RBR Superintendent Louis Moore, Ph.D.
“This is going to be the next crossroads” for RBR, Moore told The Two River Times Tuesday. “If this referendum goes forward, it’s going to put us in a place to continue to thrive. But if we lose, there are going to be some significant costs.”
The referendum is set for Dec. 11 and will be split into two separate questions, with the second contingent upon approval of the first.
The first is a projected $19.9 million bond to finance a total replacement of the high school’s roof which is “at the end of its life,” said Moore. It will also address an expansion to the school’s footprint creating 10 new classrooms along with transforming the media center into a “learning commons,” he said. This question qualifies for state debt service aid which the district projects would reduce the cost to $15.7 million.
A second question, with a $2.2-million price tag, will fund replacing the existing grass stadium field with a new turf field, as well as upgrades to the concession stands and new bathroom facilities at the stadium. This question will only be approved if the first question passes, and it does not qualify for state debt service aid.
With debt aid calculated in, the total project cost is roughly $18 million.
Depending on average assessed home values in the three boroughs, homeowners would see a tax increase between $82 and $152 annually until 2023, when older debts are retired, according to a statement from the district. After 2023, the tax hit from this referendum would shrink to a range between $52 and $92.
Here is a breakdown of the three towns with their average assessed home values and the tax levy based on those assessments using 2018-2019 budget information:
- Little Silver: Average Assessment = $633,785. Regional School Tax Levy = $2,728.67
- Red Bank: Average Assessment = $364,296. Regional School Tax Levy = $1,663.97
- Shrewsbury: Average Assessment = $496,184. Regional School Tax Levy = $2,508.13
A combination of factors surrounding student enrollment is driving the referendum. Enrollment from in-district students is on the rise, said Moore. A demographic study commissioned last year shows an anticipated 5 to 10 percent increase in the student body. RBR has 1,217 students enrolled this year and its capacity is 1,200 students; that’s expected to jump to 1,350 in the coming years.
The school is also seeing less money come in as increasing in-district enrollments have essentially barred out-of-district students. RBR drew 190 students from 15 different sending districts in the 2017-2018 school year at a tuition cost of $14,500 each. Tuition income to RBR has fallen from $4 million to $2.8 million over the past four years as the number of available spaces has declined.
The district offers multiple unique Career Technical Educational academies drawing students from Belmar, Millstone and Union Beach, among others, Moore said. Those academies are for visual and performing arts, information technology, engineering and early childhood education.
Moore added that the RBR Board of Education increases the out-of-district tuition roughly 2 percent annually, which is in line with the usual budget increases.
Local taxpayers, however, will feel the brunt down the line if the referendum is denied, Moore cautioned.
“I think this is a very responsible approach to these issues,” he said. “The truth is – and it’s a little counterintuitive – but if we don’t do this, the tax burden will actually increase.”
The vote comes just before the tri-borough school district will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2019. According to the school’s history, the original building was financed by voters in the three boroughs for a total cost of $9.4 million.
“This is going to improve our facility and really let us take the next step in being able to offer remarkable programs to all of our students,” Moore said. “It’s also going to deal with these fiscal issues that we’re already seeing.”
The Red Bank Regional High School District will be presenting referendum plans at borough meetings and for any groups that request it to inform the public. Questions about the vote can be emailed to RBRemail@example.com.
This article was first published in the June 14-June 21, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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