From the Record:
An overflow crowd of 500 residents attended a public hearing Monday night on a proposal to dissolve the River Dell Regional School District, a sign that the issue has struck a nerve with residents of both Oradell and River Edge.
River Edge residents — who appeared to represent the majority of the group — wore yellow ribbons and buttons in a show of solidarity and argued that the plan proposed by Oradell would adversely affect the education of students in both boroughs.
But Oradell residents, tired of paying what they see as an unfair tax burden, responded that the only change would be to divide the taxes more equitably.
“The system is broken, and it needs fixing,” said Oradell Mayor Frederick LaMonica. “But there is no fix on the horizon. That is why we are taking this action, which is the only one available to us.”
The hearing was held by a special state review board, which is charged with deciding whether to allow the proposal to go to a referendum.
At issue is the current tax system, which allocates school taxes based on each borough’s total property value, rather than the number of students each sends to the regional district.
Oradell pays more than $2 million more in taxes each year despite sending many fewer students. The result is that each student from Oradell costs taxpayers approximately $6,000 more in school taxes to educate.
“Why does it cost $6,000 more per year to educate my child?” said Oradell resident Michael Chakansky.
Oradell’s plan would extend each borough’s district from kindergarten to 12th grade, rather than sixth grade. River Edge would control the middle school, while Oradell would operate the high school.
Each borough would pay the taxes to the other based on the number of students it sent to the other’s school, potentially saving Oradell millions of dollars while significantly increasing River Edge’s taxes.