Shore leaders draw line in the sand over school aid fairness formula
Mounting rage over the potential loss of millions upon millions of dollars in state school aid crystallizes with a Thursday protest at the State House in Trenton.
The funding slash would result from revisions in the statewide distribution formula, now under consideration in the Legislature. If Governor Christie approves the plan spearheaded by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vin Prieto, it would take effect with the academic year starting this September.
The Toms River Regional District, already receiving about $7,000,000 less than it did less than a decade ago, would be deprived of another $3,300,000 each year. It's far from the only district facing a potential clobbering through redistribution. Districts standing to lose millions each year include Brick Township, Middletown, Tinton Falls, Eatontown, Ocean Township, Andover Regional and more.
State lawmakers who plan to vocalize their support of the protest include Republican State Senators Jim Holzapfel (R-10), Jennifer Beck (R-11), Joe Kyrillos (R-13) and Steve Oroho (R-24), along with Assemblymen Dave Wolfe and Greg McGuckin (R-10).
Holzapfel, Wolfe, and McGuckin stirred the crowd at High School South this afternoon, along with Toms River Board of Education President Ben Giovine, Superintendent David Healy, Brick Township Mayor John Ducey.
Ducey placed Brick's post-Sandy financial bind in clear terms. "Five years later...we have $341,000,000 worth of ratables that are not on the books...that's residential. It isn't fair that a smaller group of people are paying an extra $341,000,000 five years later - obviously higher when Sandy happened, over $800,000,000. That smaller group of people, paying more, is now being punished by this fairness formula."
Healy has pointedly kept politics out of the discussion, focusing on the need to reconcile the potential loss of dollars and cents with new revenue streams. The lawmakers, though, felt no such constraint.
"How convenient that school districts represented by Democrats will receive the lion’s share of additional funding while schools in Republican districts like Toms River will see their aid significantly reduced,” Holzapfel said. “It’s grossly unfair to our students and taxpayers.”
Wolfe asserted that Toms River schools have been underfunded for years, and that taxpayers who are just starting to regain post-Superstorm stability have no business being saddled with another setback.
“Gutting aid to a district that has suffered huge ratable losses from Sandy is unconscionable," Wolfe said. "We’ve gone from a natural disaster to a political disaster. It’s unbelievable that Democrats think this is reform. What a joke, only it isn’t funny.”
New Jersey's state budget must be approved by June 30, to coincide with the fiscal year about to begin. Sweeney has promised to stall it unless the Governor arrives at some agreement on school aid distribution.
“Anytime the Democrats broker a deal behind closed doors, you know it’s going to cost taxpayers,” McGuckin said. “In this case, it’s Toms River taxpayers who are still struggling to recover from Sandy. Now the Democrats want to pour salt into the wound by cutting education aid. There isn’t anything remotely fair about this proposal. Enough already.”
The Thursday protest begins at 10 AM in the State House Annex, Committee Room 6.