2006-04-27 / Front Page

Shore Regional's $13.2M budget fails

Three incumbents win; newcomer elected to fill unexpired term
BY SUE MORGAN Staff Writer

BY SUE MORGAN
Staff Writer

WEST LONG BRANCH -- By less than 100 votes, the Shore Regional High School District's $13.2 million budget for academic year 2006-07 has been sunk.

The spending plan carrying a total tax levy of $12,151,366 was rejected by voters in four sending towns last week by a tally of 975 to 882, a difference of 93 votes, according to non-certified figures posted on the district Web site.

The failure of the budget resulted from voter rejection in Sea Bright and Oceanport - two of the four communities that send high school students to the grade nine-through 12 school in West Long Branch.

The budget did pass, however, without a hitch in Monmouth Beach and by a mere 14 votes in West Long Branch, the two other sending towns.

Those four towns bear different amounts of the total district budget in proportionate amounts based on a funding formula set by the New Jersey Department of Education.

The funding formula is based on the average assessed valuation of properties in each town and the number of students sent to the high school, district officials have said.

It is now up to the governing bodies of all four towns to work with the district to find ways to trim the rejected tax levy, said Steve Brennan, Shore Regional's business administrator.

The four governing bodies must reach an agreement as to what areas can be cut and how much funding can be eliminated, Brennan explained.

Of the 88 votes cast in Sea Bright, the tally was 68 to 19 against the proposal to increase district taxes by 2.9 cents from the current 27.8 cents to 30.7 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, according to figures posted on the Web site.

Under the rejected budget, Sea Bright taxpayers would have seen an average school tax increase of $9.33 monthly or almost $112 yearly on a property assessed at the borough average of $383,000 according to figures supplied by the district.

Altogether, Sea Bright has 1,204 registered voters and the 88 ballots cast represents a 7- percent voter turnout, the Shore Regional Web site shows.

Sea Bright's rejection of the spending plan does not surprise district officials because that borough was to incur the highest property tax increase of the four sending towns despite its having the lowest enrollment of students, Brennan said.

"Sea Bright is historically a 'no' vote. It has to do with enrollment," Brennan said.

Though they were to incur the lowest tax increase under the budget, Oceanport voters turned down the budget by a tally of 360 to 245, a difference of 115 ballots, the district Web site shows.

Under the Shore Regional spending plan, Oceanport property taxes would go up by nine-tenths of a cent from 64.3 cents to 65.2 cents per $100 of assessed valuation under the proposed budget.

That increase amounts to a school tax hike of $4.17 monthly or just over $50 yearly on a property assessed at the borough average of $580,000.

In rejecting the district budget, Oceanport voters might have been reacting to the borough's recent reassessment of properties as well as bad news from the state government on the tax situation as a whole, Brennan speculated.

"The taxpayers have had enough of property taxes and they had a chance to voice their opinion," Brennan said. "Oceanport had the lowest tax increase of the four towns."

Oceanport, which also sends the second greatest number of students to the school, saw 603 of its 4,232 registered voters come out, a turnout of 14 percent, according to the district Web site.

Monmouth Beach, which can legitimately claim the highest assessed property values of all four towns, was also to incur the second highest property tax increase under the failed district budget.

Voters in that community accepted a property tax hike of 2.8 cents, which would result in district taxes going up from the existing 63.8 cents to 66.6 cents per $100 of assessed valuation by a 285-228 tally, the district Web site shows.

The margin of 57 votes was more than enough to pass in a town that would see an average increase of $13.50 monthly or $162 annually on a home assessed at the borough average of $584,000, according to district figures.

Voter turnout in Monmouth Beach, which sends the second lowest number of students to the school, amounted to 641 ballots cast out of 2,813 registered voters, a 13-percent turnout, district figures show.

The one-cent increase planned for West Long Branch passed by a vote tally of 333 to 319 in the borough, which supplies most of the high school's student body, the district Web site shows.

Like Oceanport, West Long Branch also underwent a property reassessment by the borough government last year.

Nonetheless, the failed Shore Regional budget calls for West Long Branch property taxes to go up by one cent from 58 cents to 59 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

That would amount to an average school tax hike of $4 per month, or $48 yearly, on a home assessed at $473,000, the borough average under the latest reassessment.

Of the borough's 4,906 registered voters, 641 came out to the polls, a 13-percent turnout, district figures show.

As for the district's regional board, three incumbents, one each in Sea Bright, Monmouth Beach and Oceanport-were to be sworn to new three-year terms during Tuesday night's reorganization meeting.

Joan Brearley of Sea Bright, Anthony F. Moro Jr. of Monmouth Beach and Paul Rolleri of Oceanport ran uncontested in their races to represent each of their hometowns.

Brearley garnered 69 votes in her town, Moro took 300 votes in Monmouth Beach, and Rolleri received 419 ballots in Oceanport, according to non-certified totals posted on the district web site.

Only in Monmouth Beach was there a contest to fill the last year of an unexpired term.

In that race, newcomer David Baker garnered 265 votes over incumbent Richard J. Bohnert's 180 votes according to non-certified tallies on the Web site.

Each of the four sending towns is represented proportionately on the Shore Regional Board of Education, which holds its meetings at the high school.

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