Don’t Blame Schools

Nov 13, 2019

To the Editor:

At the recently held town hall meeting in the Long Beach Township Municipal Building about the upcoming December referendum, William Fennimore, president of the Long Beach Island Consolidated Board of Education, answered a question about the yearly budget. He verified that our budgetary shortfall this year will be around $200,000. $200,000? In an area of quite substantial wealth with a low local school tax, this does not seem like an impossible amount of money in order to keep our two schools open. Yes, we have to account for costs increasing each year (and therefore a growing deficit). However, the Dec 10 referendum has the ability to further increase our debt without any real progress in our educational spaces.

Our school levy varies from 27 percent to 30 percent depending on your town (and this is the total school levy and not just for the local schools). Comparatively, Barnegat’s school levy is 51 percent! Let’s take a step back. If we use an example of a $620,000 home, the local school tax is $273.06. The municipal tax is $1,483.23. The true burden on the taxpayer in our area is actually not the local schools. Of course, we all value and love our municipal services; however, there has to be a way to make up for our deficit without closing an entire school.

Consolidating our two schools won’t actually save us money with the proposed referendum for $7.6 million. We would spend $380,000 per year to repay the 20-year loan. If the Ethel Jacobsen School closed, the BOE had a figure of around $400,000 for possible savings. With that figure we would still “save” only $20,000 overall for closing a school. Of course, these are estimates and actual costs may differ, but it’s obvious this would still not save the taxpayer any significant amount of money. The problem is that with this debt we aren’t creating a better learning environment for our children. We are simply maintaining a building.

There are many possible solutions. Here are a few. I am not saying I have the answer; however, I think we need to come together as a community and have input into one of the biggest decisions to impact our children and community.

We need to look at consolidating other services on our 18-mile island. We have six municipalities. We should be looking at other ways to share services.

The mayors could all come together, as they did when they cut the district’s budget by $400,000, and give the district back the $400,000 per year.

We could come up with creative solutions (as a community) for the district to make up the shortfall. There have been many ideas floating around for years. Let’s see if we can look back at them and come up with new ones.

The budget should be voted on yearly (as it was previously) to account for differing costs.

There are three women running for the board of education who are ready to tackle these issues and work for our community to find the best solution for our children and taxpayers. Please vote Hoffacker (Long Beach Township), Wasilewski (Barnegat Light) and Karvan (Harvey Cedars).

Please also consider voting “no” to the referendum until we have time to come together as a community. Board member Eileen Bowker is heading up a strategic planning committee that will call upon our community for input. That will start in January. Don’t you think we should be planning before voting whether to spend $7.6 million on Dec. 10? Let’s not promote fiscal irresponsibility any longer. Come meet the three candidates listed above on Thursday at Kubel’s Too from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Let’s come together for our community.

Danielle Hagler

Long Beach Township

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