Loch Arbour officials have appropriated $40,000 to hire a private law firm to examine alternatives to solve the village’s high school tax rate problem.
Mayor Paul Fernicola said that the appropriation is for payment of legal fees over potential litigation pertaining to Loch Arbour’s affiliation with the Ocean Township school district.
Since the neighboring towns of Allenhurst and Interlaken have rejected offers to merge with the Loch Arbour, the village is pursuing other alternatives, Fernicola said.
“We are trying to determine what options there are other than consolidating with another town. It’s an important enough issue that we need to continue looking into it. Since consolidation is not an option, we need to look at alternatives to solve the problem,” he said.
The law firm of Sills, Cummis and Gross, based in Newark, has been retained to look into the matter.
Loch Arbour property owners saw their annual school tax rise by $1.3 million, or to $1.6 million, about five years ago after the state Legislature enacted the School Funding Reform Act.
The village’s school tax bill, now based on property valuation, has risen to about $2 million annually and had 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 and the recent school tax is affecting some resident’s ability to continue to live in the home, especially people on fixed incomes.
It was recently costing about $98,000 to educate each of the village’s students in Ocean Township schools whereas the actual per-pupil cost in the district is close to $15,000.