Laurelton Sale One Option In Filling Funding Hole

The Laurelton School. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)
The Laurelton School. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

  BRICK – There were no bids on the former Laurelton School site during a recent auction, so the Board of Education voted to obtain the services of an auction company to sell the property, which has been uninhabited since 2008.

  School Business Administrator James Edwards said that obtaining the services of an auction company is one of three choices available to the district.

  “We could enter into negotiations to sell the building, we could go back out to bid again, or we could look to hire an auctioneer service who would assist us in selling the building,” he said during a special Board of Education meeting recently.

  The Finance Committee feels that the auctioneer is the best way to proceed, he said. Whoever buys the property would pay the auctioneer’s fee, Edwards added, with no fees to the district.

  A competitive contracting process would be used to select an auctioneer/marketing service, he added.

  Edwards said the board had an appraisal done on the property, which is the amount (adopted by resolution) the building is worth and for which the district cannot accept less.

  The site has gone to bid twice, and while there were a few lookers, there were no bidders, he said.

  Board of Education member Victoria Pakala asked Edwards to review the alternatives the board had considered for the site.

  “We have gone through many processes. We have looked at public/private partnerships, we’ve actually put it out to lease a couple of times – we got no bidders on it,” Edwards said.

Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn

  The district has entertained jointures with the township and with the Affordable Housing Authority, but the feedback is always the same: the renovations needed because of environmental concerns are so great that no one wants to touch it, Edwards said.

  “The point we’re at now, which is 10 years in the making, of selling the building or attempting to sell it, is because we truly at this point…have exhausted all options,” he said.

  The $620,000 price tag would be a one-time revenue source for the school district which is currently in litigation with the state over a $24 million incremental cut in state aid over seven years.

  As always, Edwards provided an update to the school funding litigation. The attorney who is representing the district provided information regarding future litigation costs for the lawsuit.

  Edwards said the worst case scenario cost for the lawsuit is upwards of $75,000, which would then be split by the seven districts that are suing the state.

  This amount is well within the amount previously authorized by the board in the amount of $40,000, he said, of which there is $20,027 remaining.

  The business administrator said that the Finance Committee discussed several revenue strategies that had been brought up during Board of Education meetings. Some strategies were suggested by people who had emailed Edwards and by school district staff.

  The first strategy is to impose a school tax, similar to a Jersey City tax which was part of the state’s school funding formula.

  “I let the committee know that I have reached out to the legislative offices and asked if they would consider supporting such a piece of legislation, and we’ll look to see how that proceeds,” Edwards said.

  The district has been looking at placing ads on school buses, gyms and fields, and at corporate sponsors, which Edwards said has been in the works for a while.            

  Some $24,538 has been collected in fees during the 2018-2019 school year, and while incremental increases in the future might be appropriate, the Finance Committee felt that large increases would not be favorably viewed upon by the spectators at the events, which are mostly parents, he said.

  Also, the district has considered buyer consortiums for a revenue stream, such as the township-run tax rebate program, Buy in Brick, but found that such programs are “revenue-neutral” to the township.

  Credit being given to the people who use the program are able to take that credit off their tax bill and not pay that amount to the township, so there is no revenue gain on that, Edwards said.  

  He said he reached out to the township to propose education fees on new developments, but the general feedback he has received is that the township does not want to turn away developers by imposing a fee that surrounding townships do not have.

(Photo by Micromedia Publications)

  One of the school administrators suggested a fundraising foundation for the district. Edwards said he recently attended a workshop entitled “Winning Grant Strategies,” and the Finance Committee has invited the person who ran the workshop to attend the next Finance Committee meeting to talk about the formation of a foundation and grant opportunities.

  Another school administrator had suggested the construction of a bubble for rental purposes such as the one at Toms River Intermediate School East on Hooper Avenue.

  “I did speak to Toms River about their bubble, and regards to the cost involved and the amount of rental that would be generated, it doesn’t seem like it would be a worthwhile endeavor,” Edwards said.

  The next Board of Education meeting will be on Thursday November 14 at 7 p.m. at the Professional Development Center.