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FRHSD referendum will focus on roofing, paving projects at six schools

Voters in the eight municipalities that comprise the Freehold Regional High School District are being asked to approve a $14.46 million referendum in the 2021 general election. The referendum will address paving and roofing projects at the district’s six high schools.

The municipalities in the FRHSD are Colts Neck, Englishtown, Farmingdale, Freehold Borough, Freehold Township, Howell, Manalapan and Marlboro. The total vote count from all eight towns combined will determine the outcome of the question.

The 2021 general election is being conducted with vote by mail ballots and with in-person voting. Early in-person voting will begin on Oct. 23 and continue for nine days. Election Day is Nov. 2.

According to information posted online by the FRHSD, “The district has critical, urgent infrastructure needs, including roofing and paving projects, that must be addressed. There are two ways in which a school district can pay for these projects – through bond referendum or through the annual operating budget.

“In the Freehold Regional’s situation, the hardship of losing approximately $30 million in state aid under Senate Bill 2 makes it impossible to include this work in our annual operating budget without having to make significant cuts elsewhere. As a result, the Freehold Regional High School District is seeking voter approval … on a referendum to issue bonds to complete this work.”

According to district administrators, if voters approve the referendum, the state will pick up 40% of the bonds’ cost, meaning the work will cost the school district $8.68 million instead of the full $14.46 million. If the referendum is approved, the impact on the FRHSD portion of a resident’s property tax bill is an estimated increase of less than one-half of 1%.
This year’s referendum marks the third time in four years that residents of the district’s sending municipalities have been asked to approve a public question. Referendums in October 2018 and November 2019 were defeated by voters.

The requested expenditure of $14.46 million for the proposed roofing and paving upgrades is appropriated as follows: $4.352 million at Colts Neck High School; $588,000 at Freehold High School, Freehold Borough; $3.296 million at Freehold Township High School; $2.055 million at Howell High School; $1.631 million at Manalapan High School; and $2.538 million at Marlboro High School.

In a statement, district administrators said, “As many (people) know, FRHSD attempted to previously pass two referendums. We listened to our residents’ concerns about the costs and projects associated with those previous proposals and as such have dramatically reduced the overall scope for this proposal.

“Gone are the upgraded classroom spaces and turf fields, among other items that made up the previous $39.79 million and $42.01 million proposals. Our proposed referendum’s $14.46 million budget contains only critical, urgent infrastructure needs related to roofing and paving.”

Assistant Superintendent for Business Administration Sean Boyce said earlier this year that if the proposed referendum does not pass, it does not mean district administrators will forego the repairs that are needed on the school roofs and in the parking lots.

Rather, Boyce said the funds that would be needed to make the repairs would have to come out of the district’s operating budget, which funds the educational services and programs that are provided to students.

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