Home School News First Strike: N.J. Will Slash Brick’s School Funding by $1.1M This Year

First Strike: N.J. Will Slash Brick’s School Funding by $1.1M This Year

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Brick Township Board of Education/Schools (Photo: Daniel Nee)
Brick Township Board of Education/Schools (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Trenton thinks Brick’s taxes are too low, and they’re doing something about it.

Though the majority of New Jersey’s 577 school districts will receive more funding this year, Gov. Phil Murphy signed off Friday on a measure that will strip $1,162,224 from Brick’s schools. It is not clear, however, if the state will require homeowners to make up the difference through property taxes or if a reduction in expenditures is allowed.

The figures released by the governor’s office call for a total 3.29 percent reduction in funding for the Brick district’s schools, which is the first of what is estimated to be a $22 million cut over seven years. After the seventh year, the district will have a permanent $22 million reduction.

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The funding plan was described by Murphy’s office as “a balanced approach to school aid” that ensures schools are “receiving the funds they need to advance academic excellence for our students.” Statewide, Jersey City, Brick and Toms River will lose the highest amount of state funding, respectively.

The Brick district, in particular, receives a one-two punch of a funding loss and a potential tax hike to make up for it because it falls under two categories. First, the district is considered overfunded, and second, the state’s school funding formula considers the town wealthy enough to afford to fund a substantial increase in its tax levy. The funding that will be cut this year is so-called “adjustment aid,” essentially state dollars that bridge the gap between what Brick taxpayers pay and how much the state believes they can afford to pay. Under the formula, Brick’s taxes were considered too low to support its school system, and declining enrollment has signaled to the state that its funding should be cut.

Previously, district officials said the cut in state funding would be required to be made up by a tax increase at the local level, however a budget guidance document released this weekend by the state Department of Education leaves the door open for budget reductions, which would most likely stem from layoffs or other reductions in services.

According to the guidance, districts losing funding can use surplus funding to make up the difference, ask the state commissioner of education for permission to use emergency reserves or cut appropriations. The document also states that districts must hold a public meeting by Aug. 1 to address the reduction.

“This is a tight timeframe, and districts need to act quickly with the impending beginning of the new school year,” the document said.

Statewide, an additional $351 million in K-12 school aid will be allocated to 391 districts. But another $32 million will be redistributed from 172 districts – including Brick – receiving “more than their uncapped aid amounts to those districts that are underfunded,” the Murphy administration said in a statement.

By providing additional resources to districts that have been significantly underfunded, this budget starts a path toward the Governor’s goal of a stronger and fairer school funding structure,” said Education Commissioner Lamont O. Repollet.

The news sent shockwaves throughout Ocean County. In Toms River, a Democratic member of the township council publicly announced last week that he would become a Republican, citing the school funding issue. In Brick, Mayor John Ducey, also a Democrat, publicly called on Murphy to veto the plan.

The Brick Township school board held its most recent meeting before the announcement was made Friday. There have been no announcements as to when the emergency budget meeting will be held.

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According State DOE Data:

  • 2017-2018 Total K-12 Aid: $35,304,821
  • 2018-19 Governor’s Budget Message (GBM) Total K-12 Aid: $36,055,619
  • 2018-19 Approp. Act Revised Total K-12 Aid: $34,142,597
  • Equalization Aid: $9,463,269
  • Education Adequacy Aid: $0
  • Choice Aid: $0
  • Transportation Aid: $4,922,064
  • Special Education Categorical Aid: $5,784,673
  • Security Aid: $1,672,094
  • Adjustment Aid: $12,300,497
  • 2018-19 Approp. Act Revised Total K-12 Aid: $34,142,597
  • One Year K-12 Aid Difference: -$1,162,224
  • Aid Percent Difference: -3.29%