An author of a study for Lakehurst school officials that included a comparison of tuition rates in Manchester and Jackson has responded to a charge by Manchester's district that it unfairly compared costs.
The tuition rate of $14,000 per student used in the Puleio and Strimple Associates and JP Savedoff and Associates school switch feasibility study was provided by Lakehurst administrators, as it is the estimated contracted rate between the districts for the 2012-13 school year, said study author Nicholas Puleio.
The study concludes that Lakehurst taxpayers would see a cost savings and possibly greater educational offerings if its students attended high school in Jackson, rather than Manchester. However, Manchester officials said the tuition data in the feasibility study is flawed, leading to overstated cost-savings estimates.
A Lakehurst resident brought up a letter from Manchester school administrators refuting the cost used in the study at the borough's Board of Education meeting Tuesday night, when the findings were presented to the public. Puleio said that the rate may be adjusted, but "that's not the number that's in the sending-receiving contract for Lakehurst and Manchester for the 2012-13 school year."
Manchester officials said in a letter to Patch that its budgeted cost per pupil for high school students in 2012-13 is $12,452, a figure less than the estimate used in the contract. The rate used for Jackson is the budgeted cost per pupil, which is $11,332.
"Therefore, for this comparison to be fairly presented, we should be comparing Jackson’s budgeted cost per pupil for 2012-2013 to Manchester’s budgeted cost per pupil for 2012-2013," Manchester administrators said in the letter. "To compare two different sets of numbers makes little to no sense and any conclusion using these numbers is totally invalid."
The report's finding that Lakehurst would save $2 million over five years "is significantly overstated and completely unrealistic," Manchester school administrators contend in the letter.
Adjustments in the tuition rate are made every two years once certified by the state Department of Education, which means Lakehurst could receive a refund for the difference.
"I'm going to guess that's perhaps the budgeted number per pupil, which is different than the estimated tuition. As I said in the presentation, that number can be adjusted," Puleio said.
Some years Lakehurst has received a refund, while in others it was asked to pay more, said the district's Business Administrator Barry Parliman.
"It really does swing back and forth," he said.
At the Manchester Board of Education meeting Wednesday, President Donald Webster again addressed the report and methodology used to estimate the cost savings.
"I was very disappointed by what I saw in that report," he said.
Manchester school administrators will work with their counterparts in Lakehurst to give them any data that they need, Webster said. Lakehurst's newly appointed liaison to Manchester's school board, Kevin Oliver, was in attendance at the meeting.
Lakehurst, which typically sends about 150 high school students to Manchester, would save $415,634 per year going by the $14,000 estimated rate. That would reduce taxes $0.17 per $100 of assessed valuation, the report states.
"If the estimated rate charged is more than the state certified rate at the completion of the school year, the difference is refunded to Lakehurst," the letter written by Manchester administrators states. "That is why you cannot determine a savings based on a budgeted rate and an estimated rate because the savings presented in this study does not reflect any amounts that are refunded to Lakehurst. The refunded tuition amount would reduce the savings in this report."
Lakehurst board members could vote on the switch at their Nov. 20 meeting.