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Ocean Legislators Slam N.J. Budget ‘Pork’ Amidst School Funding Cuts in Brick and Toms River

Toms River, Brick and students from 70 other districts across New Jersey attend a rally in Trenton over school funding cuts, March 5, 2019. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Toms River, Brick and students from 70 other districts across New Jersey attend a rally in Trenton over school funding cuts, March 5, 2019. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

The Brick and Toms River school districts will continue to see their state funding slashed while other municipalities and districts will benefit from “pork” spending projects under a state budget that was adopted by the Democrat-held legislature, Ocean County all-Republican legislative contingent said in a joint statement issued Thursday.

The Toms River Regional school district will see a 14 percent decrease in state funding for the 2021-22 school year while Brick Township is set to lose nearly 20 percent of its state funding. The cuts will be measured in the millions in both communities. Both school systems will shed staff this year, and are required to raise property taxes to the maximum amount allowed by law under the state’s 2 percent cap.

Meanwhile, however, some municipalities and school districts will see millions of dollars of taxpayer funding going toward projects the local legislators said are unnecessary and, in the case of one school district, largely unexplained.

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The election-year budget – passed largely under party lines at a record-setting $46.6 billion – is “inflated with pork projects for North Jersey districts,” the Sen. James Holzapfel and state Senators John Catalano and Gregory McGuckin said, including $500,000 for a band shell in Hopewell, $300,000 for the Paramus Public Library, additional increases in aid to areas in Camden, and an unexplained $10 million windfall for North Bergen schools “while many Ocean County school districts are being cut.”

Lawmakers across the state have decried aspects of the spending plan that they say represents unnecessary pork-barrel spending. A staggering $400 million in new spending was added onto Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed budget by lawmakers this week, leading to an outcry by Republicans but a rapid effort to get the measure passed by Democrats. The budget was posted less than 48 hours before a vote on it took place. Now, Murphy will decide whether to accept the budget as passed, veto it outright, or use line-item veto powers to eliminate individual spending items. Items ranging from Little League fields,

The local GOP legislators took aim at their Democrat colleagues in the statement issued Thursday night.

“Instead of funding our schools fairly, Democrats have decided to cut aid from our classrooms and redirect it into pork projects in their districts,” stated Senator Holzapfel. “It says a lot about their priorities and how they’re choosing to fund wasteful programs over our children. This lavish spending in a post-Covid world is going to devastate our taxpayers and our school children for years to come.”

The budget includes $4 million for Essex County’s First Tee golf program and and $1 million for the Hinchliffe Stadium restoration project in Paterson.

“It’s a shame that every year millions of dollars are being wasted on frivolous programs while teachers are being laid off and students’ extra-curricular activities are being cut,” said Catalano, a former Brick Township council member. “Our school districts deserve better than backroom, pork filled schemes that only serve the personal interests of a handful of lawmakers.”