W.L.B. district budgets for loss of Interlaken students

State says Interlaken BOE failed to end contract with Asbury Park School District


The West Long Branch School District Board of Education adopted a revised school budget for the 2012-13 school year that calls for an increase in the tax levy due to the anticipated loss of $170,000 in tuition for out-of-district students.

The $11.3 million district budget adopted at the March 27 board meeting calls for a tax levy of $9,687,458, a $172,042 increase over the $9,515,416 tax levy in 2011-12.

The higher tax levy was built into the budget to offset the potential loss of tuition for 17 students residing in the borough of Interlaken who are currently educated in the West Long Branch School District.

“There are a couple of things that the [state] wants Interlaken to do, and they are doing them,” interim Superintendent Herbert Massa said in an interview on March 28. “We anticipate getting state approval, and then we will put Interlaken back in [the budget.] According to Massa, the state has not yet finalized contracts for Interlaken to send students to West Long Branch during the 2012-13 school year.

The $11.3 million budget represents a $135,607 increase from the 2011-12 budget of $11.2 million but is a $42,091 decrease from the tentative budget presented at the March 6 meeting.

The decrease was attributed to cutting one teaching position at Frank Antonides School.

The loss of tuition could result in a school tax rate of 70.95 cents per $100 of assessed value, a 0.0003-cent increase from last year’s 70.92 cents per $100.

A taxpayer with a home assessed at the borough average of $471,322 would see an increase of $1.42 for the year.

If the district receives the additional revenue, the tax levy would decrease to $9,559,549.

According to a letter from Executive County Superintendent Joseph Passiment, Interlaken students should attend public schools in the Asbury Park School District. Passiment did not return multiple phone calls seeking comment. For the past year, 17 students from Interlaken have been attending schools in the West Long Branch District and two have attended Shore Regional High School.

The Interlaken, West Long Branch and Shore Regional boards of education received letters in March from Passiment saying that a letter sent inAugust 2011 stating that contracts for Interlaken were never authorized by the state and must be rescinded.

“The Interlaken Board of Education, as well as the boards of education of West Long Branch and Shore Regional, ignored the directive and continue to establish a sending/receiving relationship under a tuition contract basis for the 2011-2012 school year,” the letter states.

The letter also outlines three statutes, which stipulate what Interlaken must do in order to sever the sending/receiving relationship with Asbury Park.

Massa said the Monmouth County superintendent’s office did not approve the 2012-13 district budget.

“The only thing that brought this to a head was that the county office would not sign our budget,” Massa said on March 28, adding that the reason was because the Interlaken funds were included.

“I said, well we filed all the necessary papers and we did what we were supposed to do.”

During the March 27 meeting, Massa addressed concerns expressed by Interlaken residents.

“We had meetings back in September, and specifics were laid out for us to do. There were also meetings prior to September about things that we were supposed to do, and we did. All of these facts were brought before the commissioner,” Massa said.

“The direction from the person in charge of that meeting was that the county superintendent was to work with our attorneys to get this done and to move forward.”

Mervin Franks, a resident of Interlaken, asked if the borough was in arrears on tuition payments for students.

“Iwas told that until the contracts were upheld from the state, that Interlaken could not payWest Long Branch for our students to attend the school,” he said.

Massa said that this is incorrect.

“We have been billing Interlaken quarterly as the contract says,” Massa said, adding that the district has been paid.

He added that the arrangement benefits both districts.

“It’s a win-win in that Interlaken will now have a very nice school to send their [children] to and we will have the benefit of tuition payments, which will help reduce taxes in West Long Branch,” he said.

Meredith Wong, president of the Interlaken BOE, agreed.

“We have worked so hard getting Interlaken a viable school district, and you’re not only viable but you’re fantastic,” she said. “Every kid deserves a public school option, and this is beyond our wildest dreams. It has been a wonderful partnership.”

She explained afterward that the Interlaken board is working with the state to make West Long Branch a permanent public school option.

“Asbury Park has a failing school district and we haven’t sent our students there for years,” Wong said. “They have to go to a parochial or private school. This gives us a public school option.”

Parents also spoke during the meeting, thanking the West Long Branch board.

“My daughters love this school and they feel very welcome. We are really thrilled to have a viable school district, which every town should have,” Kim Zalepa, a resident of Interlaken, said. “We appreciate all the work both boards of education have done to make that happen. We are hoping to continue this winwin situation.”