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School referendum will have impact on taxes

Colts Neck residents had better brace themselves for humongous tax increases if the Colts Neck K-8 School District Board of Education succeeds in passing the $25.5 million bond referendum on Sept. 24 for facilities upgrades.

This same question was defeated last year and many of us suggested the board might find the money to achieve these upgrades on a yearly basis by prioritizing projects and reducing bloated administrative costs.

At a per-pupil cost of $29,000, I believe we have a right to demand cost-effectiveness in
administrative areas of the budget that will not affect our children’s education.

Instead, the board, once again, is hard-selling this second attempt as a boon to taxpayers because “the school district would receive 34% of the eligible project costs in state aid” and the board would offset tax increases in the first three years by contributing $2.6 million toward debt service from our capital expense account and from our federal impact aid.

The first year’s increase will be $0; second year $48; third year $72; and in the fourth year, we will see a whopping $248 tax increase!

In case you haven’t had the time over the summer to attend one of the informational meetings, here are the facts with regard to the state aid, as well as the tax impacts we can expect.

The approximately $13 million the state is contributing is not a 34% payment up front on eligible projects. It will be broken up into yearly contributions to the principal and interest (primarily) due on the bonds.

Plus, there is no guarantee the state will be able to keep its commitment over the entire 25 years. According to the New Jersey School Boards Association, the state altered debt service aid during the Great Recession in 2010.

Money contributed by the board is still our money. So, our own $2.6 million will be used to mitigate tax increases in the first three years.

However, we will still be on the hook for paying off the rest of the debt for 22 years in the form of a whopping $248 tax increase in the fourth year. The increases for this bond issue will be in addition to the yearly increases in our taxes that we are now experiencing to fund our schools.

Before we give the board an additional $25.5 million, we must demand that it take a hard look at the current expense budget and root out unnecessary spending. We have three buildings operating as three separate schools for approximately 1,000 students, plus we have a fourth building for central administrative staff.

Certainly, cuts could be made in redundant administrative costs and money redirected for vital facilities upgrades.

RoseAnn Scotti
Colts Neck

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