FRHSD school board adopts $200 million budget for 2020-21 academic year

The Freehold Regional High School District Board of Education has adopted a $200.81 million budget that will fund the operation of the district for the 2020-21 school year.

District administrators said the budget will be supported by the collection of $140.38 million in taxes from residential and commercial property owners in the district’s eight sending municipalities: Colts Neck, Englishtown, Farmingdale, Freehold Borough, Freehold Township, Howell, Manalapan and Marlboro.

The district operates high schools in Colts Neck, Freehold Borough, Freehold Township, Howell, Manalapan and Marlboro.

According to budget documents, the district’s enrollment has decreased from 10,673 students in October 2018 to 10,571 students in October 2019. The estimated enrollment for October 2020 is 10,464 students.

The district’s 2019-20 budget totaled $208.97 million and was supported in part by a tax levy of $141.76 million, according to district administrators. From 2019-20 to 2020-21, total spending is down $8.2 million and the tax levy is down $1.38 million.

In 2020-21, under the terms of legislation known as S-2 that was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2018, the district will continue to see its state aid decrease. State aid to the FRHSD will decrease from $46.52 million in 2019-20 to 40.73 million in 2020-21.

Administrators have said the decrease in state aid will continue through the 2024-25 school year. Freehold Regional has joined other school districts that are losing state aid in litigation that seeks to overturn S-2.

Board President Carl Accettola, Vice President Jennifer Sutera and board members Elizabeth Higley, Kathie Lavin, Diana Cappiello, Peter Bruno, Marc Parisi, Heshy Moses and Mike Messinger voted “yes” on a motion to adopt the budget during a meeting on April 27.

Administrators provided the tax levy that property owners in each sending municipality will pay in the upcoming school year, and relevant tax information:

• Colts Neck: $11.8 million tax levy for 2020-21, down from $12.8 million for 2019-20. The high school tax rate has decreased from 42.3 cents to 39.3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The average home assessment is $813,700 and that individual will pay $3,198 in FRHSD taxes in 2020-21.

• Englishtown: $1.07 million tax levy for 2020-21, down from $1.09 million in 2019-20. The high school tax rate has decreased from 42.2 cents to 40.6 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of a home assessed at $300,000 will pay $1,218 in FRHSD taxes.

• Farmingdale: $724,299 tax levy for 2020-21, up from $593,080 for 2019-20. The high school tax rate has increased from 35.4 cents to 42 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The owner of a home assessed at $300,000 will pay $1,260 in FRHSD taxes.

• Freehold Borough: $4.17 million tax levy for 2020-21, up from $3.97 million for 2019-20. The high school tax rate has increased from 36.4 cents to 37.6 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The average home assessment is $255,415 and that individual will pay $960 in FRHSD taxes.

• Freehold Township: $27.66 million tax levy for 2020-21, down from $27.77 million for 2019-20. The high school tax rate has decreased from 41.7 cents to 41.1 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The average home assessment is $402,410 and that individual will pay $1,653 in FRHSD taxes.

• Howell: $31.79 million tax levy for 2020-21, down from $32.21 million for 2019-20. The high school tax rate has decreased from 44.8 cents to 42.9 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The average home assessment is $343,544 and that individual will pay $1,473 in FRHSD taxes.

• Manalapan: $29.39 million tax levy for 2020-21, up from $29.21 million for 2019-20. The high school tax rate has decreased from 42 cents to 41.6 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The average home assessment is $448,700 and that individual will pay $1,866 in FRHSD taxes.

• Marlboro: $33.74 million tax levy for 2020-21, down from $34.12 million for 2019-20. The high school tax rate has decreased from 47.4 cents to 46.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The average home assessment is $494,605 and that individual will pay $2,300 in FRHSD taxes.

Freehold Regional High School District taxes are one item on a property owner’s tax bill. The total tax bill also includes municipal taxes, local school district taxes and Monmouth County taxes.

The total amount an individual pays in taxes is determined by the assessed value of his home and/or property, and the tax rate that is set by each taxing entity.

District administrators provided the following information regarding the 2020-21 school year:

• The district’s staff of 1,300 employees (900 teachers) is being reduced by 30 teaching positions. Of the 30 positions being eliminated, 17 will be lost through retirements and 13 current staff members were not renewed for the upcoming school year;

• Concerns about mercury will result in the replacement of five rubber gym floors and two rubber weight room floors across the district. The cost of the work will be $2 million;

• The after-school activity bus at the high schools will be eliminated beginning in September. Students who participate in after-school activities will have to secure their own transportation home;

• Courtesy busing for students who live less than 2.5 miles from the high school they attend will be retained for 2020-21. In recent months there had been discussion about eliminating courtesy busing beginning in the 2020-21 school year.

• District administrators will investigate the possibility of offering a subscription (paid) busing service beginning in September 2021 for students who live closer than 2.5 miles to the high school they attend;

• Beginning in September, some bus stops in residential developments may be eliminated and/or consolidated; bus stops may be designated at the entrance to a residential development and some students may have to walk more than a half-mile to reach their bus stop;

• Fees to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities will be instituted beginning with the 2020-21 school year. Prior to the end of the current school year, details regarding the participation fees will be released to the public. District administrators are anticipating the participation fees to generate $1.25 million in revenue during the upcoming school year;

• The 2020-21 budget continues to provide funding for the district’s 12 magnet programs and two International Baccalaureate programs;

• The cost to educate a pupil in the FRHSD is $14,417.

• Administrators were granted a 2% increase in salary for the 2020-21 school year.

Parisi, who is one of Howell’s two representatives on the school board, said, “The 2% raise our administrators are receiving is fair. Equity among our staff is important. A 2% percent raise is fair and equitable to them. I applaud our administration.”

Superintendent of Schools Charles Sampson said 1,270 of the district’s 1,300 employees are covered by collective bargaining agreements that generally are not the topic of public discussion.

“It is unfortunate that 30 employees each April are hung out to dry” with a public discussion of their salaries, Sampson said.

The superintendent was referring to comments that had been made on social media prior to the board meeting about the salary increase for the administrators.

Sampson said seven administrative positions have been eliminated during the past nine years.

“We are low in terms of administrative costs. This is a big place and you need folks to run it,” he said.

Managing Editor Mark Rosman contributed to this article. He may be reached at mrosman@newspapermediagroup.com