Seaside Heights officials on Wednesday authorized the appointment of a local attorney with deep roots in the education sector to lead a study required by the state which will examine the potential of consolidating Seaside Heights into the Toms River Regional school district.
Vito Gagliardi, Jr., an attorney who serves as partner in the Morristown firm of Porzio, Bromberg & Newman, received the appointment Wednesday. Gagliardi has heavily specialized in education law over the course of his career, and has familial ties to the barrier island. His father, Vito Gagliardi, Sr., is a former state education commissioner who also served a short interim stint on the Brick Township Board of Education. He resides in Brick’s South Mantoloking section.
News of the study has led to stress among teachers and parents who say they value the personalized, community-minded environment that surrounds the Hugh J. Boyd Elementary School in Seaside Heights, the district’s only school. The study will examine whether the Boyd school should be closed down and the students transported across Barnegat Bay to Toms River schools instead. Seaside Heights taxpayers would not be assessed Toms River school taxes, but would instead pay per-pupil tuition to the regional district.
Borough Administrator Christopher Vaz said there is no set timetable for the study to be completed and the state has not pressured the borough to rush the process.
“He’s hired now, so they can start whenever they’d like to start, probably when they are able to pull the resources together,” said Vaz. “There isn’t really any deadline to go by – we’re already in January – and things don’t always move too fast.”
The study was first approved over the summer.
The feasibility study is required because Seaside Heights receives what is known as “transitional aid” from Trenton to bridge the gap between the borough’s ratable base and the amount of tax revenue required to support local services. Seaside Heights has yet to recoup the $240 million of its ratable base that was lost during Superstorm Sandy, leaving the municipal government no choice but to apply for the aid package. It has consistently been granted in smaller amounts each year for several years, but the study – which will be funded by the state – is one of the strings attached to the assistance.
The study will look at “the educational impact but also the fiscal impact, including on the taxpayers,” Borough Attorney Jean Cipriani previously said. “The state is covering the cost of an independent study.”