SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ - The South Brunswick Board of Education recently presented about the budget at a meeting this past Monday, following a decision from the state to change the formula of how schools receive funding which resulted in a loss of eight million dollars from South Brunswick school’s over the next six years. Superintendent Scott Feder presented his budget to the board in a slideshow presentation which is expected to become public on the South Brunswick Board of Education website soon.
Funding for schools in New Jersey is broken up into State Aid, which is a portion of school funding provided by the state, and Local Fair Share, which is a portion taken from local taxes. An increase in town valuation from $8.6 Billion to $9.9 Billion two years ago lead the state to give less money in state aid and more was expected from the Local Fair Share. After the valuation of the town went down by $200 million dollars last year, the state refused to give them more money in state aid and still expects them to raise the funding in Local State Share.
On February 1, the state took away a health waiver from the school which was valued at $1.1 million, then on the February 27, the school was told it would lose with $1.9 million the following year. According to the state, South Brunswick schools are 8-10 million dollars under ‘adequacy funding’ but schools are left with no means of raising more money from the state or the township, according to Feder.
Feder discussed how New Jersey schools operate in what is called a ‘deficit model’ meaning from year to year the board must either make cuts or figure out new ways to make money as the cost of schools will continually go up. Budgets are adjusted to align with revenue of the township, according to the presentation.
Feder describes the short term impacts of the loss of aid as ‘going check to check’ and reviewing every decision before any money is spent. Feder said that new programs will not start at the schools and a reduction of resources is expected. In the long term over the next two to three years, the school board will have to raise $100 million or expect to see massive staff reductions, ending major programs, no more busing outside a two miles radius of a school and a significant increase in local taxes.
“If things do not change, if the state does not understand this, if the state continues to sit on their thumbs about this issue, then this is the reality,” Feder said “There is no way that we are giving our children a free and appropriate education in year four of this and beyond if this doesn’t change. We will be stripped down to the bone and be forced to take away more and more every year.”
Feder put forward some options for raising more money for the schools such as trying to raise taxes, renting out their facilities and declining enrollment. The decrease in enrollment allows the school to keep on certain non-tenure staff according to Feder, and if the enrollment went up then it would result in the loss of seven or nine positions.
Another way of raising money was the addition of Alyssa’s Law, which requires each school to have a panic button resulting in a grant of $488,000 to the school. The board is also contemplating reviewing their vendor relationships with services that are outsourced to a company, such as lunch providers. Feder said that they will be negotiating service contracts or balancing if it is cheaper to provide their own services.
Feder announced that the school board will be joining the ‘Save our Schools’ program in New Jersey which has been actively fighting to preserve school funding. Feder also said that they will be working closely with the township and the assembly to draft legislation to address these concerns.