NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The 2020-21 school district budget proposed at Tuesday night’s school board meeting calls for an annual tax increase of about $60 per resident.
The $234.25 million budget will include money earmarked to install air conditioning in the Lincoln School gym, provide students with Chromebooks and increase pay for substitute teachers.
Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration announced last week that New Brunswick school district’s portion of state aid for the next school year will come to nearly $150 million. That represents a $10.8 million or 7.73% increase for the city from the previous year.
Still, Richard Jannarone, the New Brunswick school business administrator and secretary for the Board of Education, said the district is operating at a shortfall in regards to state adequacy calculations.
The state creates and assigns a per-student dollar figure to each municipality – an adequacy number that each municipality should spend on the education of each student. In New Brunswick, the proposed budget is $57 million below that mark.
Under a state funding formula, New Brunswick would be in line to receive $46 million in state aid. The state, however, has not committed the resources necessary to fully fund school districts such as New Brunswick.
Even with the proposed tax increase, that means the district is operating at 74.27% of its adequacy budget.
“So, although we are very thankful for the $10.7 million,” Jannarone said, “we are in my words still operating a budget for 7,500 children when we have 10,000. So everything we plan to maintain our current programs, analyze our current programs, focus on the instructional priorities of the district and continue to look at the viability of the programs and decide what we want to continue, expand and maintain for the next school year.”
Under the proposed budget, the district will spend $300,000 to install air conditioning in the gym at Lincoln School and will increase substitute teachers’ pay from $100 a day to $125.
Jannarone said that the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting were reserved for questions pertaining specifically to the budget.
Several of the nine speakers, however, tried to use the opportunity to voice their opposition to the district’s plan to include Lincoln Annex School in a project in which the school would be razed and a cancer hospital would be built on the site. The $750 million plan was rolled out last month by officials from the city, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and DEVCO, and calls for the building of a $55 million replacement school.
Tracts at 131 Jersey Ave. and 50 Jersey Ave. have been identified as potential sites for replacement schools. Officials have said that the site at 131 Jersey Ave. is contaminated and would need to be remediated before construction began.
At various points Tuesday, Jannarone refused to answer questions such as what is the price estimate of the site of the current Lincoln Annex School and who would be financially responsible if the sites were not properly remediated and children became ill.
At other times, President Diana Solis and attorney George Hendricks tried to stop speakers who attempted to launch in comments about Lincoln Annex. Security members at one point had to surround a speaker who was ruled out of order by Solis.
Another speaker began yelling at the board , calling it a “disgusting dictatorship.”
Hendricks responded, “I’m going to tell you this one more time. You’re disrupting a public meeting and you’re not talking on the budget. You’re making speeches. You’re inciting the audience.”
A second meeting focusing on the school budget will be held March 24 at 6 p.m. at New Brunswick High School.