At Newton Day on June 11, 2016, the Board of Education received 132 signed letters of support to address the unequal distribution of state aid to schools. Those letters were delivered to our state legislators in the 24th District office in mid-June. Some highlights from the letters include:
It is clear the State of New Jersey has many problems needing attention, but the quality of life in our communities is directly linked to the quality of our schools. Taxpayers expect their legislators to distribute state aid in an equitable way to support adequate school budgets and fair local taxes.
The current distribution of state aid is in direct contradiction to the stated intent of the funding law. For the 2016-17 school year, 209 of the state’s 591 school districts are projected to receive more than 100% of their calculated aid, while 240 others will receive less than 70% of theirs. Most of the overfunding is done through the mechanism of Adjustment Aid, in the amount of $566 million. The funding formula became law in 2008: school districts must adjust to the fiscal realities we face today and for the foreseeable future.
A related problem is that many municipalities contribute more than their fair share of the school budget through the local tax levy, while others provide much less than theirs. If communities choose to pay higher taxes to support a more than adequate budget, then that is their right consistent with the standard of local control. However, 123 municipalities are projected to contribute less than 70% of their local fair share next year, and over one-third of them (48) will receive more than the full amount of state aid they are due. Why should the State provide more than 100% of a school district’s calculated state aid, especially when that community contributes far less than its local fair share?
Fifty-five school districts in New Jersey (including Newton) are in a truly distressing situation.
- They have tax levies above 100% of their local fair share;
- They have budgets the state considers inadequate; and
- They will receive less than 70% of their state aid.
The options for these districts are unreasonably high local taxes or an inadequate school budget: that’s a choice no community should be forced to make, especially when the State has the means to address the problem.
The Board of Education passed a resolution on June 28, 2016, with the same sentiments. For real time information on School Funding Fairness including the letter for those wishing to add your support, visit our funding webpage. Please return signed letters to the District Office at 57 Trinity Street. Hard copies are available there as well.