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"If we host a taxpayers' conference on regionalization, will you attend? In response, Ropars and Bozza both said they would.

Consolidating school systems

The costs of that are astounding." Ropars noted that under current state law, merging school districts would also require voters in every community included in the proposed merger to approve it in a referendum.

Typically in such situations, he said, some communities might see a tax savings while others might see their taxes go up.

Scott Mac Kenzie, a Hampton Township Committee member, suggested this could be a disincentive to debt-free municipalities such as Hampton to enter a regional system.

In doing so, he further noted that the K-6 Hampton School District was debt-free and that Kittatinny Regional has "very little debt" -- a contrast to the $72 million in debt incurred eight years ago for the renovation of Sparta High School, where Wednesday's forum was held.

And the voters' decision should come only after thorough study of the economic and educational impact of a merger." Current state law, in fact, requires a feasibility study of the pros and cons of entering into any merger involving regionalization or send-receive -- a hybrid arrangement that theoretically preserves some of the benefits of home rule in an otherwise regional setup -- before the process can advance.

"And typically," Vrancik said, "these feasibility studies cost at least ,000." Hespe, however, suggested the cost of the study itself was not nearly as significant a barrier to merging school districts as some believed.

You're lobbyists who help mold these laws, and then you come here to steer boards of education at the local level.

All these obstacles are artificial." Roseff suggested he might seek to have the New Jersey Taxpayers Association hold a regionalization forum of its own in the coming year.

C., and former New Jersey Commmissioner of Education, listens at the Sussex County School Boards Forum at Sparta High School in Sparta, December 6, 2017.

Photo by Warren Westura/New Jersey Herald — From left, Richard Vohden, former Sussex County freeholder and Marie Bilik, former executive director, New Jersey School Boards Association, listen to comments at the Sussex County School Boards Forum at Sparta High School in Sparta, December 6, 2017.

Ropars said any regionalization effort, to make sense economically, could very well entail closing one or more school buildings -- or, at the very least, "students who go to one school could end up going someplace else." "Think about the transportation of those students going from one place to another," Ropars said.

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