Long Beach Island — The Joint Council of Taxpayers Associations of Long Beach Island is defending its aggregated comparison of the Long Beach Island Consolidated School District’s two educational facilities ahead of next month’s referendum to renovate one of the buildings. That vote is less than two weeks away.
In a five-page document, the JCTA responds to criticism by the Friends of LBI Schools group, which released its own rebuttal to the council’s Nov. 4 comparison a week ago.
One of the issues the JCTA rebuts in its latest document is the subject of property ownership, which the Friends of LBI Schools called “a misrepresentation of the facts. Just as the LBI Board of Education is listed as the owner of the LBI School in Column A, so too should they be listed as the owner of the E.J. (Ethel A. Jacobsen School) property.”
The E.J. School opened in the 1960s and is located on nearly 6 acres of land divided between Ship Bottom and Surf City. The land in Ship Bottom is 2.5 acres with the remainder, roughly 2.9 acres, having been deeded for educational purposes by Surf City officials in the 1960s. At the time of the deed, Surf City officials included a stipulation that if a future board ever deemed the property not necessary for educational purposes it would revert back to the borough. Ship Bottom also deeded its portion of the E.J. property to the district, but it did not include a reverter clause.
The JCTA initial comparison “focuses on land ownership, not school ownership; we did not mix the two. The current state of ownership for each property is accurately reported in the comparison document,” the JCTA said in its Nov. 25 response. “We presented the facts without any mention of – or guesses about – any interested parties.”
The joint council also cited the Friends of LBI Schools comments about the LBI School flooding as a result of Superstorm Sandy seven years ago.
“There is no argument about that, but the point made in this section is that the LBI School flooded not because the building was below flood elevation, but rather because the boiler room and the main electrical distribution service had been installed, unfortunately, below, flood elevation,” the JCTA wrote in its response. “Most likely you are already aware that the boiler room and electrical distribution service have been moved above flood elevation.”
Much of the JCTA rebuttal, though, concerns membership in the organization. Ship Bottom and Surf City are not represented by the joint council.
The Joint Council “has been around a long time – it received its charter from the New Jersey Department of State in 1971,” the JCTA writes. “Taxpayer association participation by town has fluctuated over the decades; we would very much like the tax associations of Surf City and Ship Bottom to participate in the council. Our attempts have been met without success far.”
It went on to say the mission of its organization has remained the same for nearly five decades: to identify issues of importance to all taxpayers on LBI and to address those issues deemed appropriate by the JCTA.
“No other group stepped up to tackle the production of this type of document,” the JCTA said of its initial school-by-school comparison. “(We) proceeded because this endeavor is very much in line with our mission, and the members of our associations and the general public at board of education meetings were very vocal about wanting to have this comparison.”
— Gina G. Scala