Public hearings scheduled on school funding


Hearings have been scheduled for Sept. 24-25 in Freehold Borough to give interested parties a chance to comment on a request to the state for funding to construct school improvements.

On July 20, the Freehold Borough K-8 School District Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution authorizing public hearings in its attempt to have state education officials authorize $32.9 million in funding for improvements in the district, Superintendent of Schools Rocco Tomazic said.

Administrative Law Judge Susan Scarola has been assigned to hear the case. The evidentiary hearings will take place at the Park Avenue Elementary School gymnasium, 280 Park Ave., Freehold Borough, from noon to 5 p.m. Sept. 24 and from 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 25.

Individuals who want to appear before the judge are asked to call or write to the school district to register their appearance in order to assure the time and date of their appearance, according to Tomazic.

The failure to register will not preclude any interested person from commenting at the hearings, he said.

The hearings represent the next procedural step in the legal process through which the board is seeking an order from the state Commissioner of Education directing the issuance of bonds to fund a $32.9 million school construction referendum that has been rejected twice by borough voters.

At the same time, the board has also asked the state Legislature to appropriate the funds for the project. “On Jan. 29, the board approved a resolution stating it was unable to comply with the state’s constitutional mandate of (providing) a thorough and efficient education for each of its students because it lacked adequate school facilities. … These hearings represent a major step in our ongoing effort to address the district’s severe overcrowding,” Tomazic said.

Members of the public recently had the opportunity to submit comments about the matter, and Tomazic said 408 written comments from interested persons were received. Those comments are in Scarola’s possession and will not need to be repeated orally at the hearings.

“Our goal is unchanged,” the superintendent said. “We want to be able to provide a thorough and efficient education for all resident students in Freehold Borough, as required by law and consistent with the principles of the New Jersey State Constitution.”

School board president Michael Lichardi said the board’s action is a reflection of “our commitment to due process for the sake of a thorough and efficient education for our children.”

“We must continue to move this capital project forward despite the referendum having been twice rejected,” Lichardi said. “This is not because we are a rogue board with an agenda contrary to the voters of Freehold Borough, rather, we are compelled by law to exercise due diligence in the performance of the duties we are sworn to.

“To stop without pursuing this matter further would be premature, and we would have failed in the performance of our duties when other options are still available as provided by law. … This petition is one of two initiatives. The first was to request the Legislature appropriate funds for this purpose; as yet, the district has not received any such funding from the state,” he said.