By DON STINE
Any action on a proposed merger between Loch Arbour and neighboring Allenhurst to help ease the village’s school tax burden will not take place in the near future.
Loch Arbour Mayor Paul Fernicola said at last week’s Board of Commissioners meeting that fiscal issues due to Superstorm Sandy remain unresolved for both.
“At this point it is impossible to do a fiscal impact study,” he said.
Each municipality is to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency management Agency (FEMA) for damage caused by the storm, which was almost one year ago.
Fernicola said Loch Arbour has received some of its FEMA funding but he added that Allenhurst, which approved a $5 million recovery bond, has received nothing yet.
“It’s fair to say that Sandy derailed both of us. We are behind because there is an inability to know what the debt will be and what the insurance and repair amounts will be,” he said.
So, Fernicola said that there will probably be little action in the near future on the merger.
“At this point it is unlikely that there will be any vote soon, certainly not earlier than April.
This may change but I don’t think it’s likely,” he said.
Loch Arbour, which sends its school children to Ocean Township, is seeking the merger to help lower its burdensome school tax rate, which is now based solely on assessed property valuation.
Village residents saw their annual school tax rise by $1.3 million, or to $1.6 million, about four years ago when the state Legislature enacted the School Funding Reform Act.
The village’s school tax bill has now risen to just more than $2 million annually and increased village residents taxes by about $15,000 a year on the average home.
Previously Loch Arbour paid a maximum of $300,000 a year to send its children to Ocean Township schools.
It now costs about $98,000 to educate each of the village’s students in Ocean Township schools whereas the actual municipalities, calling it “the biggest issue” in delaying moving forward with the merger process.
He said that each town needs to conduct a fiscal study to determine each municipality’s assets per pupil cost in the district is around $13,000.