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Voters in three towns will decide fate of $22M Red Bank Regional referendum

In less than a week, voters in Shrewsbury Borough, Red Bank and Little Silver will answer a $22.2 million question that could determine the future of academies and specialized programs at Red Bank Regional High School.

The Red Bank Regional High School District Board of Education will ask voters on Dec. 11 to approve two referendum questions.

A collective majority on the referendum vote, not the results in an individual town, will pass or defeat the proposed spending package. Voters will head to the polls from 2-8 p.m. at the same location they vote at during the general election.

The referendum will be separated into two questions.

The first question will ask voters to approve the expenditure of $15.7 million. State aid is anticipated to cover $4.2 million of that amount. The first question will propose the replacement of the Red Bank Regional High School roof, the renovation of existing areas and the addition of 10 classrooms.

The second question will ask voters to approve the expenditure of $2.3 million to pay for the construction of a synthetic turf field and the construction of a new concession stand with restrooms at the Red Bank Regional High School field.

District administrators said there will not be any state aid for this portion of the referendum.

The first question can be passed regardless of the outcome of the second question, however, the second question can only pass if voters approve the first question.

Board member Frank A. Neary Jr., who chairs the finance committee, previously outlined the tax impact of the referendum on property owners.

In Little Silver, the owner of a home assessed at $600,000 would pay about $138 more annually in school taxes through 2023 if both questions pass; in Red Bank, the owner of a home assessed at $300,000 would pay about $70 more annually through 2023 if both questions pass; and in Shrewsbury Borough, the owner of a home assessed at $500,000 would pay $130 more annually through 2023 if both questions pass.

Neary said that after 2023, the extra amount in Little Silver would decrease to about $90; the extra amount in Red Bank would decrease to about $45; and the extra amount in Shrewsbury Borough would decrease to $80. The exact amount of additional taxes to be paid would be determined by the assessed value of an individual’s home and/or property.

According to the school district’s website, current enrollment at the high school already exceeds the building’s capacity and a recent demographic study predicts further significant increases.

Neary said the work is necessary so the board can continue to accommodate students from Red Bank, Little Silver and Shrewsbury Borough who are districted to attend the high school, and so the board can continue to accept out-of-district students who pay tuition to attend Red Bank Regional and enroll in special programs.

Students who pay tuition, Neary said, collectively contribute to the substantial revenue stream the school takes in annually. Revenue generated in previous years, he said, has funded the school’s five academies, athletics and extracurricular activities.

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.

Red Bank Regional also offers advanced placement courses, dual credit courses, honors programs and the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme. The IB program is described by the district as a “rigorous and comprehensive pre-university course of studies.”  

Previously, Superintendent of Schools Louis Moore said that ideally, the board would like to accept 200 tuition students each year. Moore said admitting 200 out-of-district students would “stabilize” the stream of revenue the high school takes in each year.

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