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Superintendent: ‘Drastic changes’ will be felt in high schools beginning in Sept. 2020

Freehold Regional High School District Superintendent of Schools Charles Sampson has addressed the ramifications of the defeated referendum district administrators placed before voters on Nov. 5.

Sampson also touched on the realities students, parents and staff members will face as the amount of state aid the district receives continues to be reduced each year. He made his comments during the Nov. 18 meeting of the Board of Education.

The state legislation that changed the amount of school aid a district receives on an annual basis is known as S-2. Gov. Phil Murphy signed the legislation into law in 2018.

“Significant portions of the work (that was proposed in) the referendum still need to be done and unfortunately, that will come at a cost of reducing programs for our students,” Sampson said.

“We will continue to work with our elected officials to (try to) change some of the legislation, particularly some of the more onerous and what I would deem irrational components of S-2.

“I don’t think people understand the full impact of what a $30 million reduction looks like in a school district that is educating students for $15,000 a student when the average (cost) in the state is closer to $18,000 a student,” the superintendent said.

“It puts us in an incredibly difficult position in the coming years. I implore our community to explore and understand the components of S-2 and what your elected officials are supporting if they are supporting S-2, and what that looks like for our communities.

“We have called on the Department of Education and the governor’s office to re-examine the funding formula. To begin with, we think it is deeply flawed. We think there are a number of problems with (S-2), most notably, it has increased our ability to pay, which has jacked up our contributions for what we are expected to pay.

“With a 2% cap on the tax levy, we cannot go out to our voters and make up the scope of that funding, it’s not even close,” Sampson said.

“The oversimplified argument that we have a declining student population and that is why we are receiving the funding we are (receiving) is an artificial argument because if every single student we lost over the past decade would walk through our doors we still would be shorted millions upon millions of dollars. It’s a false argument.

“The support of S-2 is the support of long-term destruction of the school district. Students and parents will feel this beginning in September (2020) and feel it drastically. There are some drastic changes over the course of the next year or so.

“We are going to continue to take a look into how to accomplish some of the projects that were included in the referendum. We are going to continue to educate our public. We will continue to knock on our legislators’ doors to hope there is some relief from S-2 in the coming years,” the superintendent said.

The regional district has eight sending municipalities – Colts Neck, Englishtown, Farmingdale, Freehold Borough, Freehold Township, Howell, Manalapan and Marlboro – and six high schools that enroll about 10,800 students.

Voters in the district rejected a $41.7 million facilities improvement referendum on Nov. 5. The three questions that made up the referendum were defeated.

Question No. 1, ($20 million), proposed security initiatives such as interior door locks, security vestibules and public address systems; roofing and paving work; and auditorium renovations at Freehold High School.

Question No. 2, ($12 million), proposed bleacher replacements and new STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) rooms at each of the district’s six high schools.

Question No. 3, ($8.5 million), proposed the installation of synthetic turf athletic fields at Freehold Township High School, Manalapan High School and Marlboro High School, and a new media center at Colts Neck High School.

District officials have said that during the 2018-19 school year, Freehold Regional received about $51 million in state aid and said the amount had been stable for almost a decade.

The legislation known as S-2 reduces the amount of state aid some districts in New Jersey are receiving each year through 2024-25. Sampson has said that for the 2024-25 school year, Freehold Regional will receive about $18 million in state aid.

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