OCEAN TOWNSHIP: New Jersey's Commissioner of Education Kimberly Harrington has agreed to allow the village of Loch Arbour to leave the Ocean Township School District.
A special election will have to be held in the village to decide if an independent school system can be formed. It is possible that the students would ultimately end up going to West Long Branch.
Word On The Shore has reached out to Loch Arbour and West Long Branch officials and has not yet heard back from them.
However, before any of that takes place, the Ocean Township Board of Education has stated that it plans to appeal Harrington's decision, and officials are stating that the situation is "strictly a tax issue."
The Ocean Township BOE released the following statement:
The Ocean Township School District is disappointed and respectfully disagrees with the Acting Commissioner's ruling to allow Loch Arbour residents to vote on whether to remain part of the Township of Ocean School District. The fact is that the Township of Ocean and the Village of Loch Arbour have been one consolidated school district for over 50 years. That partnership has brought great advantages for many years to the residents of both communities. Ocean Township and Loch Arbour have had a long-standing legal and educational relationship between the two communities and the school district. Loch Arbour's petition at no time referenced issues with the quality of education received. This is strictly a tax issue.
The residents of Loch Arbour pay property taxes based on the exact same formula as the overwhelming majority of New Jersey residents. The formula is based on property values, not the number of children who attend the school from a particular community. The average assessed value of a home in Loch Arbour, a beachfront community, is over $1,000,000. They pay their property taxes accordingly and appropriately based on that $1,000,000 assessment. Residents in Ocean Township pay based on their assessed values as well. The tables below show similar assessed homes in Loch Arbour and Ocean Township and their taxes during the 2016 calendar year (per the Monmouth County open records search) and the projected taxes for each community should Loch Arbour abandon the Ocean Township School District.
Ocean Township (Currently)
Village of Loch Arbour (Currently)
Ocean Township (Post dissolution)
Village of Loch Arbour (Post dissolution)
As stated, residents in New Jersey do not pay their property taxes based on the number of students who attend the schools from a particular community or section of town. The reality is that New Jersey's school funding formula does not work that way.
Loch Arbour pays less in school taxes than an equivalent assessed home in Ocean Township since the school tax rate is lower in Loch Arbour (1.450 vs. 1.458) per the 2015 certified general tax rates.
Should Loch Arbour be permitted to proceed with not supporting their public school system, this will create a gap in budget that will need to be addressed by increased taxes for all Ocean Township residents and/or decreased educational programs that can be offered.
As a result, the OTBOE will be filing an appeal of the Acting Commissioner's decision to allow Loch Arbour to form an independent school district. Since this is ongoing litigation, we cannot comment on the specifics of the appeal, however, the general issue surrounds how each family or a small town pays school taxes. The formula was created to provide equitable and fair support to all of New Jersey's public schools.