By Jay Cook |
RED BANK – In his inaugural budget address last week, Gov. Phil Murphy proposed an increase of $283.6 million in state “formula” aid that goes directly to public school districts across the Garden State.
The figure is a step toward fulfilling the state’s school funding obligation, and a boost for local suburban school districts that saw flat or decreasing additional state aid during the Christie Administration.
But while more than 94 percent of districts statewide will receive additional financial aid under the plan, Red Bank Borough Public Schools are feeling nothing but disappointment.
It turns out the $178,503 state aid increase is completely wiped out by a simultaneous $184,588 figure the school system must pay to the Red Bank Charter School, leaving the borough school district with a deficit of $6,085.
“It’s unfair and unjust,” Superintendent Jared Rumage told The Two River Times this week. “We should be using the word ‘egregious’ here.”
Last summer, New Jersey revised its state aid to the Red Bank Borough School District and granted it $512,682. The district had hoped the state would increase state aid funding up to $1.2 million for 2018-2019, Rumage said, which it considers fair under the 2008 State Funding Reform Act.
Superintendent Rumage said the shortfall makes it six years in a row where the borough’s public schools haven’t seen their fair share, leaving it to start the year with a funding shortfall of about $5.8 million annually.
“It continues to hurt the economically disadvantaged and Latino population of Red Bank,” said Rumage.
The superintendent is headed to the state capitol next week to join Sen. Vin Gopal (D-11) and Freehold Borough Superintendent Rocco Tomazic to testify before the New Jersey State Assembly’s budget committee on March 28.
“There’s inequities throughout the state,” Rumage said. “There’s many children who are receiving more than their fair share, and while that’s happening, the children of Red Bank, Freehold and many other underfunded districts are suffering.”
The Red Bank Public School District educates about 1,500 kindergarten through eighth-grade students at its two schools in the 2-square-mile borough.
Impact To Other Two River Area School Districts
Monmouth County’s 55 school districts fared well in Murphy’s budget proposal. The budget allows for nearly $10.5 million in new funding, which is up over 2.6 percent compared to last year. Bergen County topped the list, with a 5.6 percent boost in its funding, and Cape May County received the smallest increase of 1.4 percent.
Among Two River-area school districts, the Borough of Highlands saw the lowest percentage bump of 2.8 percent. Shore Regional got a 16.4 percent increase – the third highest in the state.
Middletown’s Superintendent William O. George welcomed his district’s increase of 4.9 percent, or $863,399, over last year.
“This is a great step,” said George. “We regularly plan for flat, last year we had a reduction that was reinstated, and now this year we have an increase. And we’re grateful for our increase.”
Superintendent George was referring to last year’s situation where after the school budget had been finalized, the state legislature came in and took back $356,772 from Middletown’s funding. George said it was eventually reinstated in October.
“We were grateful when we got that money reinstated and we’re grateful for additional monies now,” he said.
At a tentative budget presentation on Tuesday evening, George and the Board of Education pushed for newer curricular initiatives as well as safety and security upgrades district-wide. Those security advancements include adding 15 safe school officers to the district and retraining four security guards at the two high schools.
Holmdel’s school district also saw significant school aid. It received a 11.4 percent boost, or $230,015 more than the prior year.
“I think it’s a good sign,” said Holmdel Schools Superintendent Robert McGarry. “After years of flat funding, to be moving in the other direction is a good sign. But we’re optimistically cautious.”
McGarry said Holmdel is floating different options of where those new funds could be allocated. Overall though, it does not affect the Holmdel 2020 Initiative, a $40.3 million district-wide improvement project approved by township voters last year.
“Does this allow us to look at things that ultimately didn’t make it into the final referendum? Sure,” he said. “But we’re talking about less than a half of a percent of our overall budget. That sort of puts it in perspective of what this is.”
Holmdel’s budget for 2017-2018 was approximately $58 million, said Michael Petrizzo, the district’s business administrator.
Two River Times Towns
Proposed School Funding
|Town||2018 Budget||2019 Budget||$$ Increase||% Increase|
|Henry Hudson Reg.||$784,617||$829,155||$44,538||5.7%|
|Red Bank Borough||$3,570,056||$3,748,559||$178,503||5.0%|
|Red Bank Regional||$1,047,307||$1,172,363||$125,056||11.9%|
|Rumson-Fair Haven Reg.||$500,251||$557,793||$57,542||11.5%|
This article was first published in the March 22-29, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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