HIGHLANDS – “There’s no cause for alarm” Mayor Carolyn Broullon told a resident objecting to a resolution calling for a referendum that will let voters decide about taxes and education of students in the borough schools.
Action came at last night’s meeting of the Mayor and Council when the governing body approved a resolution to put a question on the ballot in November seeking the opinion of the public on whether the four boards of education in Highlands, Atlantic Highlands and Sea Bright should regionalize into one district with a single Board of Education.
The resolution (22-058) was approved by Broullon, Jo-Anne Olszewski, Leo Cervantes and Karen Chelak, with councilmen Donald Melnyk recusing himself saying his wife is a member of the Highlands Board of Education.
The mayor explained the resolution simply opens the way to ensure all time frames are met in order to get the question on the ballot. In response to a statement of disappointment that the governing body is not waiting for yet another feasibility study, this one being done by the local board of education, the mayor explained that study is expected to be finished in June, with sufficient time before any ballot in November for people to make choices based on further information.
Currently, Highlands, and Atlantic Highlands each has a school board for its K through 6 grade schools, and the two have representatives on a third board of education that includes the 7 through 12 grade school, Henry Hudson Regional. Sea Bright currently sends its students to Shore Regional High School and Oceanport elementary school.
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Under the resolution adopted last night, each of the boroughs is seeking to determine the viability and impact of the proposed regional proposal and retained firms that provided background together with an update in March of last year that analyzed the financial, demographic, and educational impact of creating a new PK-12 regional school district. Studies concluded that the proposed district would present distinct advantages” as opposed to the current status quo. The study also showed the increased financial resources that Sea Bright students would bring to the regional district provides an opportunity for greater investments in education resources, programs and services while still providing long-term tax savings. The resolution indicates the Highlands council has made the determination that its students would receive an outstanding and fully aligned and articulated education by forming a new All-Purpose PK-12 Regional School District with Atlantic Highlands and Sea Bright and believes a referendum on its creation would give voters the ability to decide how their tax dollars are spent and how their children are educated.
In approving the resolution, Councilwoman Olszewski cited statistics, information and personal knowledge of how a large school district provides more resources, more possibilities and more additional educational programs, noting she spent much of her professional career in education in a large school district that oversaw seven schools and thousands of students.
Sea Bright adopted a similar resolution at its meeting earlier this week, and Mayor Broullon said Atlantic Highlands is expected to act on a similar resolution for their voters shortly.
Highlands has already announced at least two public hearings that will be held in that borough to keep the borough informed on all aspects of a proposed regional district, one on April 3 and one on Sept. 14, both at 7 p.m.
In other business, Council issued a proclamation in memoriam of former Councilman Anthony Bucco, who died last month.
It approved an ordinance when no one spoke at the public hearing that amends the salary ordinance and includes raises for several employee positions.
Council also unanimously adopted resolutions naming Charles Wells, David Parker, Bill Caizza and Patrick Mason, Jr. as deputy Emergency Management coordinators, naming Bob Zilinski to a three year term on the Environmental Advisory Committee, appointing Superintendent of Public Works Spencer Carpenter to perform the duties of the borough administrator during his absence or disability any time during 2022 at no additional renumeration, and certifying and approving the borough’s annual contribution to LOSAP. It further authorized and approved the County Mosquito Control Division to conduct its aerial mosquito control operations within the borough..