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Jackson council states opposition to reduction in school funding

JACKSON – The Township Council has gone on record stating its opposition to a reduction in state aid that has been delivered to the Jackson School District for 2018-19 and to additional reductions that could occur in the future.

Council members took the action during their meeting on Sept. 11.

Under Gov. Phil Murphy’s initial proposal in March, the Jackson School District’s state aid for 2018-19 was expected to total $50.122 million. Using that number, district administrators crafted a $153.83 million budget for the upcoming school year.

However, the state aid amount changed in July when a bill signed into law by Murphy changed the way state aid is allocated and trimmed Jackson’s state aid for 2018-19 to $48.770 million.

Board of Education members immediately had to accommodate the loss of $1.35 million they had included in the budget for 2018-19. To cover the loss, board members reduced appropriations by $752,000 and appropriated $600,000 from surplus funds as additional revenue in the budget.

The bill passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Murphy indicates the school district will continue to have its state aid reduced during the next six years.

Although the municipal government and the school district operate independently of each other, council President Ken Bressi said he spoke with Mayor Michael Reina and Superintendent of Schools Stephen Genco several times regarding the issue.

“There is not much we could do. We tried to touch base with the school district and to share services and so forth as much as we can,” Bressi said. “I want to applaud the mayor for meeting with the school district … and for trying to get the money back in the budget from the governor.”

Councilman Barry Calogero thanked Reina for “having the courage and fortitude to push back and tell the governor that enough is enough.”

“This reduction (in state aid) will have a negative impact on each and every taxpayer in Jackson,” Calogero said.

Council Scott Martin said, “What makes what the governor did so deplorable is that he did it after the 2018-19 budget was passed. It is one thing if the school board was getting ready to prepare the budget for the upcoming school year and the governor said he was going to dock (the district) $1.3 million and to plan accordingly. This (reduction) was done after the budget was passed, everything is in place and now the board is sent scrambling to find $1.3 million.”

Martin said the reduction in state aid for the school district could be a challenge for Jackson moving forward. He said the reductions in school aid were “horrendous” for Ocean County.

“I guess we can all guess why Gov. Murphy targeted Ocean County, (for) purely political reasons,” Martin said.

Councilwoman Ann Updegrave said she agreed with the sentiments expressed by her fellow council members.

Resident Joseph Sullivan said, “I will applaud the council for opposing Gov. Murphy’s heinous cuts to school funding here in Jackson and throughout Ocean County for that matter. He has declared war on Ocean County and anybody who opposes it should be applauded and I thank you for your strength and courage in doing so.”

The council’s resolution states that “the reduction in state aid will undoubtedly result in the loss of quality teachers and programs available to our students” and that “the failure to rescind this reduction in state aid will result in a devastating $17.5 million impact on Jackson residents by 2024. … It is the desire of the governing body to oppose the reduction in the school funding allocation to the Jackson School District by Gov. Murphy.”

Council Vice President Rob Nixon, Calogero, Martin, Updegrave, and Bressi voted to pass resolution and to forward it to Jackson’s state representatives.

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