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Jersey Math: ‘Increase’ in State Funding to Brick Schools Turned Out to Be a Cut

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

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

Headlines announcing additional funding proposed for Brick’s cash-strapped school district were both right and wrong.

The numbers took school officials by surprise, especially Business Administrator James Edwards, who said financial data that appeared on state websites did not reflect the reality of how much state funding the district would receive for the 2018-19 school year.

Gov. Phil Murphy’s budget proposal indicated a $750,798 increase in funding for local schools. But while special education and security aid was increased, a slew of other categories were cut, including adjustment aid, of which Brick receives over $14 million. The problem: adjustment aid isn’t included in the state’s budgetary figures, so a cut to that category would not “count,” so to speak.

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The budget reduces adjustment aid by $722,573, with smaller cuts to pupil growth aid, PARCC testing aid, and professional learning aid. When the numbers were crunched by the district, the verdict was in – and it was an $81,142 cut, or about .2 percent of total state funding.

Adjustment aid is a major factor in Brick’s school funding, and it has been targeted by elected officials in Trenton in recent years. Effectively, under the state’s formula to determine education funding, Brick’s taxes are considered too low. To bridge that gap between what the state considers to be Brick’s “fair share” in school funding and the actual tax levy, the state provides what has become known as “adjustment aid.”

State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen), the budget committee chairman, has said his body will not consider a budget that does not reallocate adjustment aid. Reallocation would all but guarantee significant funding cuts for Brick.

An article that recently appeared in the Star-Ledger indicated that Murphy’s education commissioner-select, Lamont Repollet, did not see the reallocation as a “sticking point,” meaning it would likely go forward.

“The state, under the funding formula, thinks we are a wealthy community,” said Dennis Filippone, acting superintendent.

Edwards said instead of cuts, Brick is arguably in need for an increase of at least $4 million. A reverse scenario, however, is looking more likely.

“In order to get the support of the legislature, quite frankly, it’s going to happen,” Sarlo said about the proposed changes.

Brick receives $14,213,519 in adjustment aid, as the Murphy budget was proposed, a figure that could be slashed once a deal is struck between the legislature and governor.

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