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FRHSD school board introduces $197M budget for 2021-22 academic year

The Freehold Regional High School District Board of Education has introduced a $197.7 million budget to support the operation of the six-school district during the 2021-22 school year.

District administrators said the budget would be supported by the collection of $143.2 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.

A public hearing on the proposed budget has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. April 29. The board may adopt the budget that evening.

The FRHSD’s remaining debt was paid off in the 2019-20 budget and the 2021-22 budget does not require the collection of a debt service tax levy, according to Rebecca Policastro, the district’s spokeswoman.

The budget for the upcoming academic year includes a loss of $6.7 million in state aid. The FRHSD’s state aid will decrease from $40.73 million in 2020-21 to $34.05 million in 2021-22.

Superintendent of Schools Charles Sampson said savings in the district’s expenditures were realized in the areas of transportation and energy when the six high schools were closed at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020 and remained closed through June.

Sampson said the savings that have been identified “will mask some of that loss of state aid” heading into 2021-22.

The superintendent said the level of bus transportation that is provided to students will not be reduced for 2021-22 and he said fees will not be assessed to the parents of students who participate in clubs and sports during the upcoming academic year.

The district’s adopted budget for 2020-21 totaled $200.81 million and was supported by the collection of $140.38 million in taxes from residential and commercial property owners in the district’s eight sending municipalities.

The district’s state aid has been reduced in each of the past several years under the terms of legislation known as S-2 that was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2018.

Sampson has said the reduction in state aid will continue through the 2024-25 school year under S-2. By that time, he said, the district will have seen its state aid reduced by a total of $30 million over seven years.

Regarding the district’s current financial position, the superintendent said, “I think to continue the S-2 drawdown in the middle of a global pandemic is the ultimate dereliction of duty from state officials.

“The fact that we would be cut $6.7 million in the 2021-22 budget during a pandemic is as if the powers (that be) don’t care about what this district has done right year after year.

“I will continue to advocate (to) our community about making their voices heard about this and reaching out to our elected officials for help and to ask for their support in this because it is not going anywhere.

“When I see everyone patting their backs and saying New Jersey is the No. 1 state for public education in the country, and then cut us by $7 million in the midst of that and trumpet us as the No. 1 public education state in the country, it is frankly disgusting,” Sampson said.

Specific information about the impact of the 2021-22 budget on property taxes in each of the eight sending municipalities is expected to be available at the April 29 public hearing.

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 amount of taxes an individual pays depends on the assessed value of that individual’s home and/or property and the tax rate that is set by each taxing entity.

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

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

— Managing Editor Mark Rosman contributed to this article.

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