Transportation Study Update
The Freehold Regional High School District (FRHSD) hired an outside consultant to prepare a study on the district's transportation operations. Representatives from Ross Haber and Associates were on hand at the February 9, 2023, Board of Education meeting to provide an update on transportation demand and cost management options. A video of the presentation is included below. While this video is long, it is very informative, and we suggest residents take the time to view it.
The district has undertaken a deliberative process to find ways to make up for crippling state aid losses while maintaining its quality educational system. What is critical to understand is what brought the FRHSD to the point where we are forced to consider such changes. As you may be aware, FRHSD has been losing millions of dollars in state aid, year after year, thanks to the misguided legislation known as S2. As a recap for those who may not be familiar with it, S2 recalculates a community’s ability to pay and redistributes state aid toward communities deemed to have been “overpaying” taxes and away from communities deemed to have been “underpaying.” To put it another way, the state’s position is not that we spend too much on our schools but that the local residents are not paying what New Jersey refers to as their “local fair share” of property taxes. The state thinks that as a community, regional residents should be paying about $22.7 million a year more in school taxes. FRHSD has been under a 7-year phasing out of state aid. We will ultimately go from receiving about $50 million per year to about $26 million - a nearly 50% reduction.
While we have been able to hold off significant cuts so far, that time has ended. We are no longer able to craft a budget without making reductions somewhere. Here are some key points to remember after watching the transportation presentation:
Nothing is final yet. We are currently awaiting the Governor’s budget figures to confirm what our state aid will be for the new budget year. No final decisions on suggestions contained in the transportation study presentation will be made until after we receive those numbers from the state and the Board of Education adopts its budget in late April.
The state requires transportation be provided to public school students who reside remote from their assigned school of attendance and to special education students who reside remote from their assigned school or who require transportation services in accordance with their Individualized Education Program (IEP). New Jersey defines remote from their assigned school of attendance as those living more than 2.5 miles from their high school.
The eligibility distance (2.5 miles) is measured from a student's home address to their school of attendance. For example, if a student who lives in Marlboro is accepted into a Magnet Program at Howell High School, the eligibility distance is measured from their home address to Howell High School, not to the "home school" of Marlboro High School.
We will establish criteria for hazardous routes and keep that in consideration when crafting ineligible transportation zones. As an example, we will not require students to cross Route 9 to attend school.
We will be working with local police departments regarding providing efficient drop-off/pick-up procedures at schools as we know this could cause an increase in parents driving students to school.
While a loss of transportation will impact not all students, all transportation routes may be impacted in some way including establishing clustered bus stops at the entrance/exit to developments.
We will provide you with as much notice as possible if your student is impacted by any change so that you have time to prepare.
Please use the form linked above to submit any questions and/or comments you have regarding the transportation study. All responses will be shared with FRHSD Administrators and the Board of Education.