Voters Approve RBR Referendum

December 13, 2018
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By Chris Rotolo

LITTLE SILVER – In a special school election held Dec. 11, voters in three boroughs approved a $17.3 million capital improvements plan for Red Bank Regional High School.

According to unofficial results published Wednesday by the Monmouth County Clerk’s office, Red Bank Regional school district voters in Little Silver, Shrewsbury and Red Bank approved a $17.3 million plan for upgrades to the school’s academic and athletic facilities.

Residents were asked to weigh in on two questions in the voting booth.

The first proposal included a new roof ($4 million), renovation of existing facilities ($4.6 million) and the construction of 10 new classrooms ($7.1 million) for a price tag of $15.7 million in addition to state funding. Of the 2,186 votes cast on the first referendum question, 69 percent of the voters said yes, and 31 percent voted no.

The second proposal centered on replacing Red Bank Regional’s grass football field with a multisport turf surface ($1.6 million) and upgrading the facility’s restrooms and concession stand ($730,000) for a cost of $2.3 million. Of the 2,170 votes cast on the second question. 59 percent voted yes and 40 percent voted no.

Each homeowner will have a different tax burden depending on the town they live in and the assessed value of their home. According to the school board, the average cost to Little Silver residents will be an additional $23 per year. It will be an average of $22 more in Red Bank and $24 more in Shrewsbury.

After 2023, costs are expected to drop to $12, $13 and $15 per year, respectively, school board officials said.

“The big takeaway for me, aside from the fact that both questions passed, is that both questions passed in all three towns,” said Red Bank Regional Board of Education member Frank A. Neary Jr. in a interview with The Two River Times Tuesday night.

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“This was an overwhelming show of support from all three communities, and I think that’s because this is a reasonable plan that was well thought out,” Neary added.

Neary spent the last six months championing the improvements plan to more than 60 school district groups.

Part of that presentation focused on the $4.9 million in state aid the school is expected to receive toward the plan.

Red Bank Regional Superintendent Louis B. Moore said the school community also reached more than 400 residents over that span, each time stressing that if the plan was not approved, the potential to cut school programming would increase and school taxes would surge.

The reason why, Moore said, is because enrollment is on an upward trend at the Ridge Road high school. Over the past four years, classroom space had become tight due to growing in-district enrollment.

The rapid growth cut into enrollment at Red Bank Regional’s respected five academies by out-of-district tuition-paying students. Tuition revenue decreased from $4 million to $2.8 million during that time period.

Moore said the focus of the improvement plan was always academics.

“We were clear about this from the beginning. The academic program came first,” said Moore, noting that Proposal No. 2 for the turf field could not pass if Proposal No. 1 failed.

“We have some wonderful academic programs. We also have some great specialty programs in our academies. These renovations are going to bring our facility up to speed. We have the programs, we have an incredible staff, now we’re going to have the facilities that will allow us to continue to grow. Red Bank Regional is on a roll,” Moore added.

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Bill and Margie Hanratty have been Little Silver residents since 1978 when the U.S. Navy stationed Bill at Naval Weapons Station Earle in the Leonardo section of Middletown Township.

All of their children have attended Red Bank Regional. Now their grandchildren are preparing to enter the high school, and the Hanrattys were both motivated to cast “yes” votes in Tuesday’s election.

“I think you need to maintain the standards of the school,” Bill said. “The proposal for the artificial turf is a little bit of add-on, I think. But I can see how that ties into maintaining the infrastructure of the property.”

“We’ve supported Red Bank Regional for many years and we’d like it to maintain its reputation,” Margie added.

With these improvements, board member Neary said all the data and projections he and the board possess shows Red Bank Regional in a “good position for the foreseeable future.”

“We’re not in perfect condition. And no- body knows what’s going to happen 10 or 20 years down the road, but we think for a good amount of time this is going to be a very reasonable plan. It’s not the perfect plan. But it’s a reasonable plan. And the administration and staff here can make it work,” Neary added.

This article was first published in the Jan. 3-9 2019 print edition of The Two River Times.

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