Court Rules Village Allowed to Leave Ocean District

By DON STINE

The decision by Loch Arbour to withdraw from the Ocean Township school district and establish a new school district for the village will be allowed under an Oct. 18 decision made by the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division.

“Taxpayers will continue to benefit from the large property tax reduction from severing our ties with the Ocean Township school district,” Mayor Paul V. Fernicola said.

Loch Arbour’s taxpayers had paid $148,000 per pupil for the 14 village students attending school in Ocean Township but now pay about $14,000 per pupil to the West Long Branch grammar school and about $15,500 per pupil to Shore Regional High School under a new education formula.

“The Board of Commissioners would like to thank you for all your patience and support. This is a huge victory for the village, and all of our residents and taxpayers,” Fernicola said.

Ocean Township now has 20 days to file a petition with state Supreme Court requesting a further appeal to the decision but the court is not obligated to hear it.

“Obviously the Board of Education is very disappointed. We respectfully feel the judge has made an incorrect interpretation but the decision is what it is,” Ocean Township Superintendent of Schools James Stefankiewicz said

He said the school board will decide at its Oct. 30 if it wants to seek an appeal of the court’s decision.

In a 93-to-4 vote, Loch Arbour last year approved the following ballot question: “Should the Village of Loch Arbour withdraw from the Ocean Township School district and form a separate school district which would enter into send-receive relationships with the West Long Branch School district for grades K-8 and Shore Regional School district for high school?”

Seventy-two percent of the village’s 135 registered voters casts ballots, with 96 percent of those voting in favor of the ballot question. Approving the new school formula lowered Loch Arbour taxes by about $11,700 annually for an average home but, in turn, Ocean Township loses about $2.1 million in school taxes, which translates into an additional $189.01 in school taxes on the average $455,456 assessed home.

Loch Arbour then formed a separate, non-operating school district (one without its own school) and will base the village’s school tax rate on the number of students being sent to the schools rather than solely on property values, as was the case.

Loch Arbour residents paid about $145,000 to educate each of its 14 students in Ocean Township schools while it costs about $16,500 to educate each Ocean Township student.

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