Gov. Phil Murphy has unveiled his Fiscal Year 2022 budget, which includes proposed funding for New Jersey’s public school districts during the 2021-22 academic year.
In terms of state school aid, which is calculated under the terms of legislation known as S-2, some school districts have come out winners and will see an increase in their support from Trenton, while some school districts have come out losers and will see their state aid continue to decrease.
The amount of state aid a school district receives helps to determine the amount of taxes a school board must raise from a municipality’s residential and commercial property owners to support the operation of a school district in an academic year.
For school districts that are scheduled to lose state aid in 2021-22, the impact of the reduction will become clear when school board members introduce their budgets for the upcoming academic year during the next few weeks and administrators explain how the loss of state aid will be accommodated in their budget.
According to information provided by the New Jersey School Boards Association, local school districts will see the following year-to-year changes in their state aid:
• Hazlet School District – A decrease of $1.34 million from $11 million in 2020-21 to $9.67 million in 2021-22.
Regarding the loss of state aid to his district, Hazlet Superintendent of Schools Scott Ridley said, “We have known for a while that these cuts would be forthcoming and have been proactive by pivoting and adjusting to compensate for this loss of revenue.
“Fortunately, we will also be receiving some COVID-19 grant money from the federal CARES Act that will allow us to apply funds to important areas such as facilities and special education while doing our best to keep other programs alive if not flourishing.
“As has been our standard from the start, we will prioritize health and safety, as well as social-emotional well-being, and are hopeful of continuing to provide a learning environment that serves the greater good while waiting for this pandemic to subside and a sense of normalcy to return,” Ridley said.
• Middletown School District – A decrease of $1.21 million from $15.73 million in 2020-21 to $14.52 million in 2021-22.
Regarding the loss of state aid to her district, Middletown Superintendent of Schools Mary Ellen Walker said, “Middletown’s reduction of state aid for 2021-22 is $1,211,017. This decrease is about $121,000 more than what we had calculated based on the S-2 Year 4 reduction percentage of 14%.
“However, the larger reduction is not unexpected given the decline in resident enrollment of 323.5 students that was reported on our October 2020 Application for State School Aid (ASSA).
“Without factoring in any projected changes in enrollment or other changes in state aid formula components, we expect additional state aid reductions over the remaining three years of S-2 implementation of at least $2.1 million.
“While we had advocated for a pause on the implementation of S-2 state aid reductions during these challenging times, the district’s budget planning has incorporated the anticipated loss of aid for the upcoming year,” Walker said.
• Keyport School District – A decrease of $413,616 from $5.74 million in 2020-21 to $5.33 million in 2021-22.
Regarding the loss of state aid to her district, Keyport Superintendent of Schools Lisa Savoia said, “The figures as presented are correct. Keyport (will lose) $413,616, which dramatically impacted budget planning for 2021-22.
“It was my hope that districts would be held harmless in regard to student enrollment. COVID-19 has caused some families to relocate in and out of state. In addition, for safety purposes, families have chosen to homeschool.
“ESSER II funds have been incorporated into the proposed 2021-22 budget to ensure that students are supported socially, emotionally and academically. In addition, the 2% tax increase and the use of approximately $76,000 in banked (tax levy) cap has been incorporated into the budget.
“Budgeting as a whole is challenging for all districts. Revenue must match expenditures and a 2% increase each year does not allow for increases to health benefits, salaries, etc.
“I work very collaboratively with the business administrator, the Board of Education and the administration to align our budgets with our strategic plan and district goals using zero-based budgeting,” Savoia said.
• Holmdel School District – An increase of $634,825 from $2.72 million in 2020-21 to $3.36 million in 2021-22.
• Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District – An increase of $675,888 from $12.76 million in 2020-21 to $13.43 million in 2021-22.
Murphy is proposing to provide $18.1 billion in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 school aid funding in Fiscal Year 2022. His proposal is subject to review and approval in the state Legislature.
The governor’s proposed FY2022 budget offers $578 million in additional K-12 school aid and nearly $50 million in additional preschool funding, according to information provided by his office.
When paired with additional investments in Extraordinary Special Aid and stabilization aid, the FY2022 budget increases school funding by $700 million, according to the governor’s office.
School districts will be able to use state funds in conjunction with federal resources to address COVID-19 related learning loss, for stand-up mental health programs, to train educators and to remediate buildings, among other uses, according to the governor’s office.
According to Murphy, the FY2022 budget proposal continues a seven-year phase-in to fully fund New Jersey’s school funding formula.
However, in order to accomplish the goal of fully funding New Jersey’s school funding formula, the formula has been taking state aid away from some school districts and adding state aid to other school districts. The pattern is scheduled to continue for another three years, according to state officials.
The governor’s FY2022 budget proposal includes $750,000 for minority teacher development grants and $550,000 to encourage retention and diversification within the teaching profession; the appropriation for nursing services in nonpublic schools will increase by $1.5 million, while state funding for the nonpublic technology initiative will be restored at $5.4 million; funding for auxiliary services provided to nonpublic school students, such as compensatory education and English as a Second Language services, will increase by $1 million; and an additional $974.4 million in pension and benefits to support retired educators.