FLEMINGTON, NJ - The Hunterdon County Board of Chosen Freeholders followed up on recent developments in state finance, as freeholders John Lanza and Zach Rich spoke about the cuts to school aid heavily felt by Hunterdon County with the State of New Jersey’s budget this year.

Rich said that in the last two years, $4.5 million in school aid cuts to Hunterdon County schools has led to the current “Restore Our School Aid” campaign by county officials and area partners. The goal is to impact the final state budget’s formulation, which is due by Oct. 1.

“Our Hunterdon County residents, parents, educators, school board members and taxpayers should embark on a campaign to press for the restoration of $2.6 million in school aid that has been cut for 20 county districts in the proposed state budget,” he said. “We must press legislators representing the county to restore the school aid, and we will reach out through various communication avenues for this effort. The governor has plans to borrow $4 billion, which is 1,500 times the amount of Hunterdon County’s school aid cut for the state budget. And we all know the cuts in school aid translate directly into property tax increases.”

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Lanza noted that Gov. Phil Murphy’s second budget presentation for 2020 offered a chance to avert the dramatic cuts in aid to Hunterdon districts.

Rich said that when cuts to school aid by district were released following the budget address Murphy delivered in August, concerns were immediately raised about the cuts totaling $2.6 million across 20 Hunterdon County school districts. He noted that the state treasurer claimed school aid remained flat in the 2020 budget.

“If all schools were seeing cutbacks due to limited state revenues. that would be one thing, however that is not the case,” Rich said. “State Sen. Steve Oroho from Sussex County stated that under Gov. Murphy’s budget, aid is being cut to about 200 schools in mainly suburban and rural communities, meanwhile the state budget’s aid increases to 85 other districts by more than 5 percent and up to 14 percent. One ‘favorite’ district is receiving a $17 million increase alone. How is this fair and equitable? And this is not a one-time occurrence with the cuts to school aid for Hunterdon County’s schools last year.”

Lanza and Rich initiated a social media and email communication lobbying network for this cause, “directed to gain the attention of those legislators representing the county, calling on them to press for our schools’ funding case,” Lanza said, noting that when they want to, state legislators can take action on the state budget that benefits residents, but only if maximum pressure is applied.

Plans to share that platform with the public were announced and more information will be posted online soon.

“I join with Freeholder Lanza in stating our great concern about the cuts in the governor’s budget, and I believe that our county’s residents need to apply more pressure on our state legislators to restore our school aid. I look forward to joining Mr. Lanza in engaging the public with a social media campaign for our fair share,” Rich said.

Rich warned of the $4.5 million reduction in aid over two years as “bad news for teachers, schoolchildren and property taxpayers,” and added that this year’s budget does not include the yearly exponential compounding effect that will adversely impact us for years to come, “all while Gov. Murphy proposed borrowing an additional $4 billion for the state budget,” he said.