LOWER TOWNSHIP - Township Council hired its own attorney to fight a plan by Cape May to either withdraw or reduce its funding share at the Lower Cape May Regional School District.

Council on Monday night voted to hire Francis Campbell as special counsel to oppose Cape May's initiative.

If Cape May leaves the district, or changes a funding formula based on property taxes to one based on the number of students each town sends, residents in the township would see their school taxes skyrocket. The district includes Cape May, Lower Township and West Cape May.

Last year, Cape May hired its own attorney, Vito Gagliardi, and appropriated $48,000 to study the issue.

Lower Township Council gave Campbell, a former general counsel and assistant executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association, a contract not to exceed $7,500.

Both attorneys have experience with this issue.

Gagliardi represented North Haledon in a case that went to the New Jersey Supreme Court and resulted in changes to the funding formula that reduced school taxes for that Passaic County town.

Campbell formerly worked in Bergen County for the Borough of River Edge fighting a petition by Oradell to change the funding formula for the River Dell Regional School District. Campbell recently represented Berkeley Township in Seaside Park's failed attempt to withdraw, dissolve or change the funding formula for the Central Regional School District.

"As a Lower Township taxpayer, I'm really excited at the Appellate Court's decision for Seaside Park," said Janet Pitts, a Villas resident fighting Cape May's initiative. "It just proves we have a really strong case here in Lower Township regarding school funding formulas,"

Campbell will attend council's Sept. 4 meeting to explain Lower Township's position on fighting Cape May's attempt to withdraw or change the funding formula.

"He has been asked to present the facts in the most objective way they could be presented, not just our point of view. Mr. Campbell comes to us very highly recommended by the attorneys that came before the Supreme Court on this issue," said Lower Township Solicitor Charles Sandman Jr.

The township is also conducting a feasibility study on the effects of Cape May withdrawing from the district. This could include a look at whether the southern Cape May County region should have one regional K-12 district. Deputy Mayor Norris Clark said he expects the study to start a discussion on how children could be educated in a more cost-effective manner.

Contact Richard Degener:

609-463-6711