In a 5-2 vote at an emergency meeting Monday night, the Brick Township Board of Education voted to apply the $1.3 million the township unexpectedly to tax relief for Brick residents.
The average Brick household – calculated as a house assessed at $304,000 – would have seen a tax increase of $54.94 this year, but will now see an increase of $15.16. That translates to an average savings of $38.78 per household.
At the meeting, Superintendent Walter Hrycenko argued that the money should be used to “invest” in the township’s schools through capital improvement projects. He said potential projects included adding air-conditioning to rooms with expensive server equipment, replacing exterior doors and hardware at Brick Township High School, and replacing old boilers with new energy-efficient and cost-saving geothermal energy systems.
"This is an opportunity to do some of the work that we have do," Hrycenko said before the vote.
The superintendent also argued that the Board would actually be saving Brick taxpayers’ money by using the state funds for capital projects because the new state money was tied in with state-funded ROD, or Regular Operating District, grants.
In allocating the money for tax relief, however, the board followed the of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration. After announcing the dispensing of additional aid last week, administration officials publicly urged school districts to use the money to defray the cost of local property taxes.
"The additional education aid included in this year's budget is an opportunity to reduce property tax burdens by lowering local property tax levies for this fiscal year or the next and move closer toward real reform in our schools," said Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts in a statement.
The state also required the township to notify them of their plans for the money by Tuesday, July 19. That means school officials had only one week to make recommendations about what could be done with the money and were forced to schedule the emergency meeting for Monday night.
Board member Walter F. Campbell, who motioned the board to allocate the money for tax relief, acknowledged that the $38 savings per average household might not seem like a significant number, but argued that it was important to show taxpayers that the board understood the strains taxpayers are under financially. He also argued that this past year was a huge year in terms of capital projects for the district with about $5 million already allocated for that purpose.
The two dissenting votes were cast by Board members Len Cuppari and Kim V. Terebush. Cuppari argued that the schools would likely not see this kind of surplus money in the near future and that the time for action on these many repairs was now.
"I'd rather see this money go to the kids because I don't think we're going to see it again," Cuppari said.
The reduction in the tax burden will take effect when the township sends its tax bills to residents in August.