Monmouth County State Senator Vin Gopal (D) issued a statement today slamming the Murphy administration over the governor’s planned budget providing millions of dollars of additional state aid to the struggling Lakewood school district.
The governor’s proposed 2020 budget would allocate an additional $15 million in state aid to Lakewood schools. The additional funding comes as other Ocean County districts are tightening their belts amid cuts to state aid.
“It is unacceptable for any school district to be singled out for special treatment,” Senator Gopal said in a statement. “The administration’s apparent proposal to divert $15 million in additional state funding to Lakewood’s School District is unfair to the hundreds of municipalities across our State that are working hard to meet their commitments under the new school funding formula. “
“Given that districts like Freehold Regional, Ocean Township and Eatontown are set to lose funds due to enrollment declines, I would like to ask the administration to explain how these proposed funding increases for Lakewood were calculated, and work with the Legislature to ensure that our school funding system remains fair and equitable to all New Jersey school districts.”
School districts across Ocean County have faced declines in state aid amid the move to give additional funding to Lakewood. As local school districts craft budgets of their own, reductions in state aid are resulting in difficult cuts.
Toms River school leaders testified in Trenton about the impact of the cuts to their district and were critical of how the state aid figures were calculated. Toms River Schools superintendent David Healy identified tax breaks issued by local governments (Payment in Lieu of Taxes or PILOT) as a pain point for state aid calculations.
“First, the aid formula uses equalized property valuations and personal income to determine a community’s ability to pay, but the property wealth figures do not include the billions of dollars in payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs,” Healy testified.
“And many years before S2, in 2010, state leaders were provided with a comprehensive Comptroller’s report which identified that such tax abatements would skew the property wealth for school aid allocations (August 18, 2010 report from A. Matthew Boxer to Governor Christie, Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Oliver). “
“Why, so many years later, has this still not been addressed? ” The Toms River superintendent questioned.
The impacts of cuts in state aid are being felt in districts across Ocean County. In Lacey Township, school officials made moves to terminate paraprofessionals due to cuts, resulting in a backlash from parents and community members at this week’s Lacey Board of Education Meeting.