SEA BRIGHT: HANDLIN TARGETS TAX FORMULA

By WIL FULTON

Last month, Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long called a school-tax formula that would sock struggling residents with a 13-percent hike for sending their high schoolers to Shore Regional High School “painful before, but after Sandy, unbearable.”

Now, Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, right, has stepped up to bat for the storm-shattered borough, offering to find a legislative solution to ease such shocks in the future.

Handlin, a 13th-district Republican from Lincroft, appeared at Tuesday night’s council meeting, saying that she is aware of the “major burdens” the formula has imposed on Sea Bright, particularly in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

“It is crystal clear that given everything that has happened, we really need to look at it [the formula] with new eyes,” she said. “And by ‘we,’ I mean the state of New Jersey. I think it’s clear to everyone that there really is no legal solution here, but there may be a legislative solution.”

“My solution – in broad brush strokes – is to take a look at a bill that, for the first time, would attempt to work in the notion that when you have an ‘act of God’ resulting in significant economic harm, that should be taken into account and enable the affected municipality to either obtain emergency funding or to be freed from the onerous nature of the formula,” she said.

Handlin asked the council members if they believed this to be a reasonable way to go, and if they would be willing to work with her on it.

Councilman Marc Leckstein called the idea a “no-brainer,” while Councilman Read Murphy referenced Marianne McKenzie, special counsel for education issues in the borough, as the person most “schooled and scholarly” on the subject, and suggested she work hand-in-hand with Handlin.

“Assemblywoman Handlin and I have spoken frequently about this subject in the past,” McKenzie told redbankgreen, post-meeting. “It’s a unique situation, and this option is definitely worth exploring. Numbers are numbers, and the formula is what it is, so this might be another option to provide some relief.”

Handlin noted that her sessions in Trenton were winding down, and that her goal is to post a bill by the time the Assembly breaks for summer in the last week of June, but that it was unlikely to go up for a voted before the fall.