Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Oradell Wins Funding Round

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Oradell Wins Funding Round

Article excerpt

An administrative law judge has recommended that the state change the funding formula for the River Dell Regional School District, a largely unprecedented move that -- if the state approves -- would shift the tax burden for the district from Oradell to River Edge and could have broader implications for the New Jersey's 70 regional school districts.

Oradell and River Edge share the district, which last year served 1,677 students in Grades 7-12 and is funded -- as are most of the state's shared districts -- according to a formula based on equalized property taxes.

Taxpayers in Oradell paid $20,360 for each of the borough's students in the district in the 2011-12 school year, while River Edge taxpayers paid $14,330 per student. But Oradell sent fewer students: 653, compared with 1,024 from River Edge.

The disparity, Oradell says, amounts to an unfair "subsidy," but the town's efforts to leave the district or change the formula have been blocked for years.

In a report signed last Friday and released on Tuesday, Administrative Law Judge Leslie Z. Celentano found in Oradell's favor, recommending that the state commissioner of education change the district's formula to one based 80 percent on a per-pupil charge and 20 percent on property taxes and phase it in over two years.

The new formula would cost the average River Edge homeowner $540 more in annual property taxes, and would save the average Oradell homeowner $622, according to testimony presented by Oradell at hearings in July.

"This is the exact result we hoped for, so we couldn't be happier about it," said Vito Gagliardi Jr., the attorney representing Oradell, noting that Oradell would save roughly $2 million annually from the change.

But Francis Campbell, who represented River Edge, disputed Celentano's findings, which he said failed to take into account the ability of the two towns to bear taxes and support a school district. …

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