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Officials: Brick Schools Could Face Staffing, Program Cuts if State Aid Reduction Passes

Mayor John Ducey speaks on school funding, June 21, 2017. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
Mayor John Ducey speaks on school funding, June 21, 2017. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Brick school district students could face larger class sizes, the elimination of programs and fewer teachers if a deal hatched by state Sen. President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto is allowed to pass, a bipartisan group of elected officials said Wednesday.

Brick would see its state aid cut by $2.2 million and neighboring Toms River’s aid would be cut to the tune of $3.3 million under the plan hatched by the two Democratic legislative leaders. Most of the officials from both towns who gathered at Toms River High School South on Wednesday called on Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, to veto the plan if aid is not restored.

“Our school board is standing in full opposition to this so-called fair funding plan,” said Toms River Regional school board president Ben Giovine. “We call on our legislative leaders to work in a bipartisan fashion to find a formula that is fair to all of our diverse districts in our great state. Failing that, we would call on our governor to veto this plan outright.”


Northern Ocean County’s legislators – state Sen. James Holzapfel and assemblymen David Wolfe and Greg McGuckin – were on hand and blasted the funding plan, saying it heavily moves money into Democratic districts and punishes Republican-leaning districts.

“At the end of the day, this was not a legislative plan,” said Holzapfel. “This was a plan that was designed by two people – Senate President Sweeney and Speaker Prieto.”

Holzapfel said out of $140 million in new school spending statewide under the plan, $100 million in additional funds will be sent to Democratic districts, while districts such as Brick and Toms River will see cuts.

Brick Mayor John Ducey, a Democrat, joined GOP elected officials in asking for the funding plan to either be modified to restore the aid or turned down completely.

“We’re talking here about fairness,” he said. “Well here’s what’s not fair: it’s not fair that Toms River and Brick got hit by Superstorm Sandy … it’s not fair that a small group of people are paying more in taxes to make up for $341 million in ratables [lost during the storm]. That smaller group of people are now being punished under this ‘fairness formula.'”

Ducey said Brick and Toms River residents have already faced storm cleanup costs, a tax base that has not recovered, and were punished with the state’s gas tax increase last year since residents of the two towns are most likely to commute to work.

“Fairness is every single community being treated the same,” Ducey said, calling on Christie to veto the school funding portion of the budget if state aid is not restored.

Students Will Suffer Most

Interim Brick Township schools superintendent Thomas Gialanella said the district’s budget and tax rate has already been set for the  2017-18 school year, and if the cuts go through, officials would be left with no choice but to reallocate funds and, potentially, cut staffing and programs.

“We’re in the midst of hiring right now for our budget that was approved in March,” said Gialanella. “We’ve already planned and hired people for the programs – what can we do now?”

“Will this affect kids? Yes,” he continued. “There will be cuts to programs we will not be able to sustain.”

“We’re going to be looking at staffing issues, larger class sizes and cutting programs,” he said. “It is really beyond comprehension that you can start talking about those types of cuts days before the budget goes into affect.”

The budgetary school year begins July 1, the same day as the state’s budgetary year.

Gialanella, like his colleague Toms River Superintendent David Healy, also said athletic programs will come under review. Healy said “pay to play” fees could be an option. Gialanella said he’d like to avoid that scenario.

“I think when you go to those extremes, you start to lose support from your community,” he said. “You don’t want to punish kids or parents for playing a sport or being in the band.”

Gialanella said neither he nor the Board of Education favors changing the tax rate, an option that to his knowledge is not available in the first place.

“The Board, in collaboration with the Administration worked hard to keep our tax rate low, prepared a budget that provides an excellent opportunity for our students, and makes some much needed capital improvements,” Board of Education President John Lamela said in a prepared statement. ” Now in late June we are told that we will lose almost $2.2 million dollars which will result in making deep cuts. At this late date it is not only unfair but will hurt the students of Brick Township.”

  • Beach N8iv

    Let me guess, you have NO PLANS to cut back on the parking lot and other no bid contracts. TONS of money for corruption, right?

  • KaayC

    If the politicos are depending on that Big Wussy Christie to bail them out – Dont hold your breath! Again, better we petition these clowns Sweeny and Prieto. These Dems are turning out worse than the Repubs. NO Votes for the RATS NO DEMOCRATS.

    • Mac

      The Dems know exactly what they are doing. And they don’t care. You’re not going to vote for them no matter what they do. You live in Ocean County. Frankly, they are simply thanking you for your support of the Big Wussy who successfully used the files, and much of his seasoned staff, from the US Prosecutor’s Office to deprive them of a lot of their business as usual practices while putting these
      ‘new found’ spoils in his own pockets of unprincipled greed.

      • KaayC

        I never voted for Christie. I can’t argue with you on the rest of what you say.

      • Mac

        I’m a Republican without a party that can still represent Republican values I was taught to believe, so I vote for anyone that isn’t an incumbent. It’s been decades since I’ve met or known an elected official in NJ that didn’t contribute more to the problem than that elected official contributed to correcting the problem.

        How bad can the other person be? I mean, the magnitude of a Chris Christie national embarrassment is listed among the other 100-year events we have to deal with in our lifetimes.

        Frankly, the dirtier the campaign of the incumbent, the more I have come to believe the opponent of this incumbent is the better choice. I figure the candidates know each other better than I do, so they know best who their real competition is, and who isn’t.

      • KaayC

        Yep, the corruption seems just rampant, though I could argue more like a hundred days event.

  • Janet

    If this plan passes and school districts are forced to increase class size, etc., parents may want to look into sending their kids to a private school. Some local private schools’ tuition is as low as $ 4k per year and class sizes are a lot smaller than those in the public schools. Knowing I’m paying property taxes to fund the local school district, while I’m also paying tuition for my kid’s private school s*cks, but it is definitely worth the sacrifice.

    • Mac

      Or groups of parents getting together for homeschooling groups could work for some also. However, if you were to do so, I recommend you let someone else handle civics lessons. You’re not coming across as much of a hard sell here. Yes, this plan will likely pass, but even if it doesn’t, cuts are coming, and there are still many options available for cutting that doesn’t increase class sizes and teaching staffs. Simply reducing the administrative positions by 30%-40% would take care of this shortage alone while having one of the least negative impacts on the current school operations. And there are so many areas that are ripe for reform.

      • Christy Lynn

        You have no idea what you are talking about. You are quoting statistics with no personal experience in the schools. If you had any you would know that our administrators in Brick work excessive hours trying to meet all of the ridiculous state evaluation and testing demands. Brick has outstanding educators as Principals and Assistant Principals working with Teachers, Parents, Students and the Community. Perhaps you could volunteer at a local school and find out just how hard teachers and administrators work everyday.

      • Mac

        I’m very aware of what school administrators do. I don’t need stats to back up personal experiences in the schools. And while I agree many administrators are very good, many of them are unnecessary and are simply taking up space in positions that were never necessary in the first place. And if it wasn’t for all the ridiculous state evaluation and testing demands that are nothing more than paperwork BS to create more unnecessary positions, then many of the administrators actually holding ‘necessary positions’ could also be reduced along with the unnecessary positions that were never necessary at all.

        I have nothing against many of the administrators’ abilities in many school systems. I’m simply saying we have many more than we need, and that if cuts become necessary, the biggest savings can come from the biggest costs that have the least impact on necessary education goals. I think paperwork that no one reads as long as some space on the page hasn’t been left blank is a worthwhile place to start reducing these unnecessary costs.

      • KaayC

        So agree. Too many Chiefs and not enough Indians.

      • Jack Mac

        High pay to superintendents and,Administrators fixing football fields ,tracks,bleachers and now lawyer costs in Brick ….instead of focusing on teachers and education …there’s a problem don’t you think .

      • KaayC

        Yes. Disproportinate funding to Abbott Dustricts as well.

      • KaayC

        Idk One hundred seventy some odd seems excessive. That would pay for a few teachers.

  • Frank Rizzo

    Democrats do not represent white middle class people. This would never be done to the well organized Hasidic of lakewood whos getting everything paid for more and more each day.

    • Mac

      The biggest reason politicians go out of their way to cater to Lakewood is due to the fact that Lakewood residents, for better or worse, come out in huge numbers to support their choices in every election. And while the rest of Ocean County witnesses time after time the successes Lakewood has experienced due to their voting habits and political support, they still continue to let Lakewood make all of their political choices for them, especially those that proudly continue to vote for the same old, same old “I’ve got mine, screw you” dead-weight of no possible advancements.

  • KaayC

    Thursday’s event has been postponed due to denial of permits! We still need to send a message that we the taxpayers of the Brick Township and Toms River Regional School District cannot afford to absorb a 3.3 million dollar cut in funding for the 2017-2018 school year. We cannot absorb this anymore while monies go to Abbott Districts. Please make sure to call Senator Sweeney and Senator Prieto please tell them how this is going to hurt our kids
    NJ State Assembly Majority leader Vincent Prieto Contact information
    Email AsmPrieto@njleg.org phone (201) 770-1303 fax (201) 770-1326
    NJ State Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney Contact information
    Email SenSweeney@njleg.org Phone: 856-251-9801 Fax: 856-251-9752