Monday, August 15, 2016

Surf City against funding consolidation of Long Beach Island schools

Photo by Ryan Morrill
If the project goes through as currently planned, the
E.J. School in Surf City would need to be revamped.
During Surf City Borough Council’s regular monthly meeting Wednesday, Aug. 10, members declined to adopt a resolution, suggested by the Long Beach Island Board of Education, in support of a referendum to fund the expansion and renovation of the Ethel A. Jacobsen School in Surf City for consolidation with the LBI Grade School in Ship Bottom. Before voting, Mayor Francis Hodgson said he would not personally approve the resolution, though he noted he would do so if council members directed him to.
The expansion and renovation of the E.J. School would be required in order to house the district’s entire student body. The district includes all of the Island’s municipalities except Beach Haven, which has its own school. The intended construction would cost nearly $16 million, according to the board’s latest plans.
Board members recently voted to permit DiCara/Rubino Architects of Wayne to put forward plans for the elementary school addition to the state Department of Education with reference to a possible March 2017 referendum backing the project. At the board’s latest meeting, architect Joseph DiCara said that, if the referendum passes, it would translate to a $51 per year increase in taxes for the average home assessed at $600,000. But Michael Gross, Surf City’s chief financial officer, told council the tax increase would be closer to about $72 for the average assessed $600,000 home.
“That isn’t chump change,” Councilman James Russell stated at the Surf City meeting.
Those numbers, however, do not include proceeds from a sale of the grade school or any debt service assistance, which, DiCara has said, would both shrink the tax impact, as would, the board imagines, the consolidation.
Hodgson has suggested making some repairs to each of the schools to keep them open and then revisiting the plan in a few years. The mayor and fellow council members believe the schools can house all of the students. Though Hodgson said he was told earlier in the summer by the board that enrollment had decreased from last year, board President Jen Bott told The SandPaper that she won’t know until the first week of school how enrollment will compare to last year.
“Summer enrollment differs as parents register over the summer up to the week before school starts and sometimes before the first day of school,” she said. “As of June 2016 our enrollment was 234.”
She noted that enrollment was 236 as of May 31 and 234 as of June 21, the last day of school. Last year’s June enrollment was 229 students.
“As you can (see), the number fluctuates,” Bott stated.
Bott also noted that all of the district’s 43 projected School Choice spots are filled and there’s currently a waiting list. Surf City Council members believe bringing in students from outside districts is too costly.
Beach Tidings: In other Surf City news, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) recently visited the area to check out the borough’s beaches following replenishment in the northern section of town. Councilwoman Jackie Siciliano said she was thankful he “made time out of his schedule” to meet with the town.
The replenishment project will wrap up in the borough over the next few weeks, with the installation of dune crossovers and fencing, said Councilman Peter Hartney.
As of Aug. 10, beach revenue topped $538,519, which is $11,444 ahead of last year at this time. As of last week, the borough had sold 105 more badges than last year, which Hartney said is attributable to an additional 460 preseason badges ($25) and 88 seasonal beach badges ($35). The sale of weekly badges, which increased $1 in price this year, had decreased by 240 badges.
The beach patrol plans to purchase four new rescue boards with help from a $5,000 donation from the family of Edgar Ryan, 13, of Pennsylvania, who was rescued by lifeguards last summer when a sand collapse rendered him unconscious. Russell noted some of the SCBP’s current boards are 20 years old.
Beach buggy permits go on sale Sept. 5, though beach buggies will be allowed on the beach only after Sept. 17.
Help Wanted: Siciliano noted the state Department of Environmental Protection is anticipated to set up an in-town meeting with local officials regarding the borough’s request to have the bay dredged in order to help with flooding.
Local homeowner David Mello expressed concern about the conversion of some commercial sites into residential properties. He suggested some “out of the box thinking” would be good for the business community.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.