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Freehold Borough school board adopts $25M budget

By Matthew Sockol
Staff Writer

FREEHOLD – The Freehold Borough K-8 School District Board of Education has adopted a budget that will pay for the operation of the school district during the 2016-17 school year.

Following a discussion among district administrators and board members at an April 25 meeting, a $25.19 million budget that will fund the operation of the district from July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017 was adopted.

The 2016-17 budget will be supported by a tax levy of $11.58 million to be paid by Freehold Borough’s residential and commercial property owners, plus $9.8 million in state aid and $554,034 from the district’s surplus funds (savings), according to information provided by the district.

The school district’s 2015-16 budget totaled $24.5 million and was supported by a tax levy of $11.12 million. The average home was assessed at $250,913, the school tax rate was $1.08 per $100 of assessed valuation and the owner of that home paid $2,709 in school taxes.

For 2016-17, the average home is assessed at $247,410 and the school tax rate will increase to $1.12 per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of that home will pay $2,770 in school taxes over the next 12 months – an increase of $61, according to information provided by district administrators.

School taxes are one component of a property owner’s tax bill, which also includes Monmouth County taxes, Freehold Regional High School District taxes, Freehold Borough municipal taxes and other assessments. Individuals pay more or less in taxes depending on the assessed value of their home and/or property.

District administrators said the budget does not feature any new programs for the 2016-17 school year.

No member of the public spoke during the public hearing on the budget that preceded the board’s vote.

Board President Michael Lichardi, Vice President Susan Greitz and board members Michele Tennant, Paul Jensen, Paul Ceppi, Bruce Patrick, Margaret Rogers and Annette Jordan voted yes on adopting the budget.

Board member Jim Keelan was absent from the meeting.

According to Business Administrator Joseph Howe, there will be an approximate increase of over $500,000 in health benefits (15 percent). A statutorily allowed adjustment for healthcare costs above the 2 percent tax levy cap of $206,640 will aid the district in covering the increase.

“We passed a budget that incorporated no new personnel (and) we were able to hold all of our programs,” Superintendent of Schools Rocco Tomazic said. “We had big increases in health insurance, but through a lot of hard work, we have that arranged and we should be able to continue next year to the same level we are this year.”

During the meeting, Tomazic discussed the board’s efforts to have bonds authorized for the construction of new facilities, which he said would address the issue of student overcrowding within the district.

After voters rejected two referendums that proposed a construction package exceeding $32 million that would have added about $280 to the annual school property tax bill, district administrators appealed to Commissioner of Education David C. Hespe to override the votes and direct the improvements to be made.

Following hearings that were held as part of the appeal process, an administrative law judge recommended that Hespe authorize the school improvements. On April 26, David Saenz, a spokesman with the state Department of Education, said a decision from Hespe was still pending.

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