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Red Bank Regional gearing up for $17.9M school referendum vote

RED BANK – The Red Bank Regional High School District Board of Education has set the bill at $17.9 million for the total cost of a referendum that outlines the expansion of and renovations to Red Bank Regional High School.

During a meeting of the Red Bank Borough Council on Aug. 15, Superintendent of Schools Louis B. Moore said the referendum will be on the ballot in a special election on Dec. 11.

Eligible voters who live in the school district’s three sending municipalities – Red Bank, Little Silver and Shrewsbury Borough – may participate in the election.

Moore said the expansion of the high school, which is located in Little Silver, is needed to accommodate students from outside those three towns who want to apply to the academies that are based in the school.

“Think about all the changes in education that have been made in the past 50 years. Our footprint has not changed,” he told Red Bank’s elected leaders.

Moore said the high school has not been renovated since its inception in 1975. He said updates to the building are necessary to meet the needs of a growing student body and to accommodate the specialty programs the school offers.

The academies offered at the high school are the Visual and Performing Arts Academy, the Academy of Information Technology, the Academy of Engineering, the Academy of Finance and the Early Childhood Education Academy.

Moore said the referendum would pay for the addition of 10 classrooms, the renovation of classrooms, the replacement of the roof and upgrades to the school’s outdoor facilities. 

Moore said the roof that needs to be replaced may account for $6 million of the $17.9 million referendum.

District administrators have said the cost to replace the roof of the high school cannot be covered in the district’s capital budget and must be funded through a referendum.

“The district just doesn’t have the capital reserves to take that on,” Moore said. “We need to go to our taxpayers and ask for that …. We need to have a future-ready school that is aligned with our programs and able to absorb our growing enrollment.”

According to the high school’s website, Red Bank Regional accepts tuition students from out-of-district into its career and technical education programs. 

In July, Moore said the high school’s enrollment for 2017-18 was about 1,200 students. He said the school exceeds an 85 percent utilization rate. Moore said the school should be operating at an 80 percent utilization rate. He said the higher rate can no longer support a growth in enrollment.

Moore reported that he expects enrollment to exceed 1,350 students in the next few years. He said if the referendum does not pass, “there will be fewer spaces for qualified students” who would be able to be accommodated from outside Red Bank, Little Silver and Shrewsbury Borough.

During the 2017-18 school year, students who are paying tuition to attend an academy at Red Bank Regional came from 15 other municipalities, Moore said. 

School board member Frank A. Neary Jr., who chairs the board’s finance committee, said tuition students are a “tremendous advantage” to the district.

Neary said 185 students will come from outside Red Bank, Little Silver and Shrewsbury Borough during the 2018-19 school year. He said the tuition for a specialty program at the high school was $14,500 for the 2017-18 school year.

“About three years ago, the revenue generated by the tuition students paid for all of our academies, all of our athletics, all of our extracurricular activities, plus more. We were making over $4 million a year in revenue,” Neary said.”If (the referendum) succeeds, we will continue to accept these (out-of-district) students as space permits.”

The expansion of the high school could help administrators to accommodate more students from outside the three sending municipalities, Neary said, which would bring in additional revenue.

“If the referendum is defeated, we are still going to need a roof and we are still going to be short on space,” he said. “We are going to have to figure out a way to fund that. There is only one other source of revenue and that is the taxpayers.”

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