Toms River Considering Bussing Routes for Private School Students
Toms River is considering developing bus routes for its growing population of students who attend yeshivos and schools for girls in neighboring Lakewood.
State law requires school districts to cover costs of transportation for all private school students. However, until now, the township has instead paid a $1000 per student stipend to each family rather than directly arranging for bussing. The payments, known as “aid in lieu”, were mostly paid in turn by families to the Lakewood Student Transportation Authority (LSTA), a private consortium which manages bussing for Lakewood’s students since 2016 when legislation radically changed the transportation funding method for the town’s many non-public school students.
According to a report by the Asbury Park Press, Toms River is set to pay $1.1 million in stipends in the coming year, up from $850,000 this year, and drastically more than it has paid in years prior.
Stipends notwithstanding, private school parents are still saving the district far more, as the most recent statistics show that local public schools spend over $16,000 per child educated in Toms River’s public schools.
Amid the rising costs of providing the stipends, school officials have said that they are actively considering designing routes for schools used by large amounts of Toms River residents. Last year, Jackson began directly providing bussing for some private school students in its district.
GSP Monmouth Service Area Re-Opened
The Monmouth service area along the Garden State Parkway has re-opened its doors right on schedule, a year after its buildings were leveled for a complete make-over together with several other highway stops in the state.
Last summer, construction teams knocked down the large facility that houses food establishments and restrooms as well as its much used gas station. Cost of the project was estimated at over $11 million, which was paid for by HMS Host and Sunoco in exchange for exclusive rights to operate at the location for 25 years.
The project was part of a statewide initiative that began under former Governor Chris Christie, affecting all of New Jersey’s major service areas.
Sen Singer Introduces Bill to Combat Road Rage against School Busses
Sen. Robert Singer (R-Monmouth, Ocean) has introduced legislation that would stiffen penalties for people who damage a school bus with passengers on board.
The bill comes in direct response to an incident that occurred earlier this month in Howell, where a man in a fit of “road rage” exited his car and broke the windows of a school bus loaded with children.
“There is no excuse for attacking a school bus filled with kids. What happened in Howell is every parent’s worst nightmare. We need to take action now, so that drivers know that this type of reckless behavior is completely unacceptable,” said Sen. Singer.
The bill would amend criminal mischief charges to any case where a person damages a school bus with a child under the age of 16 aboard. Under the present law, criminal mischief that creates damages of $2,000 or more is graded as a third degree offence, punishable by three to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Damages of lesser amounts carry lower prison times and fines. In Sen. Singer’s bill, damaging a school bus in the presence of a child could carry criminal charges regardless of the cost of damages.
“Unfortunately, road rage has become common in the Garden State, but clearly, our current penalties are not strong enough to stop hot-tempered drivers from taking out their anger on a school bus packed with kids,” said Sen. Singer. “Hopefully, by enacting a stronger deterrent, we can ensure that what happened in Howell never happens again.”
Ocean County Received Largest Slice of DEP Grants to Clean Up Litter
Ocean County will be the leading recipient of funding from the state to boost efforts “to conduct litter cleanups that improve the quality of life.”
Of the $21 million included in the program, the county is slated to get $218,091, of which $124,763 will go to Lakewood. Neighboring townships will also be recipients, with Toms River to be awarded $232,913 and Jackson, $119,496.
The grants have been increased by $2.2 million this year due to gains in revenue. Funding for the program is generated by a user fee on manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors that produce litter-generating products.
They are distributed by New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and are dubbed Clean Communities Grants.
“In addition to being unsightly, litter can have detrimental impacts on water quality, wildlife and natural habitats,” DEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe said. “Clean Communities grants provide a vital source of funding for New Jersey’s municipalities and counties. They fund cleanups, many along roadsides and around stormwater collection systems.”
Disbursements are based on housing units and miles of municipally owned roadways.
Activities funded by Clean Communities grants include cleanups of stormwater systems that can disperse trash into streams, rivers and bays; volunteer cleanups of public properties; adoption and enforcement of local anti-littering ordinances; beach cleanups; public information and education programs; and purchases of litter collection equipment such as receptacles, recycling bins, anti-litter signs and graffiti removal supplies.