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Jackson schools expect decrease in state aid for fifth straight year

JACKSON – Administrators in the Jackson School District are expecting to see a decrease in state aid for the fifth consecutive year under the terms of a state law known as S-2.

The administrators believe Jackson schools will see the district’s state aid decrease by about $4.1 million for the 2022-23 school year. There are six elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools in the district.

S-2 was enacted into law in 2018 and the reductions in state aid that are linked to the law are expected to continue through the 2024-25 school year.

District administrators are in the process of developing a budget for the 2022-23 school year. The budget has not been introduced by the Board of Education, but aspects of the spending plan were discussed during the board’s Feb. 16 meeting.

During the 2018-19 school year, Jackson received $48.77 million in state aid. During the 2019-20 school year, state aid decreased to $46.47 million. During the 2020-21 school year, state aid decreased to $42.99 million. During the 2021-22 school year, state aid decreased to $38.75 million.

A decrease of $4.1 million for 2022-23 would bring the district’s state aid to about $34.6 million.

Administrators have said the reduction in state aid is occurring as they are continuing to deal with annual factors such as increasing contractual obligations; rising costs for items such as software licenses; the increasing price of gas; increasing insurance premiums; an increase in tuition that is paid to send some students to out-of-district educational facilities; and changes to the school district’s health plan.

The 2021-22 school budget maintained investments in curriculum and technology, but did not allow for needed capital improvements or significant curricular advancements, according to district administrators.

For 2021-22, curriculum adoption was limited to what administrators described as the bare minimum of updates needed to maintain programs; a reduction in summer curriculum writing; significantly reduced professional development; a reduction in school supply budgets; and an increase in participation fees for sports and activities.

At the Feb. 16 board meeting, Superintendent of Schools Nicole Pormilli provided departmental updates as they relate to the development of the 2022-23 budget.

She noted for board members and the public that Jackson is facing a $4.1 million reduction in state aid for the upcoming school year.

“Although I have seen articles which indicate (state officials) are going to be reviewing the school funding formula, I have not heard of any changes to our state aid. In fact, the date of the Governor’s (budget address) has been pushed back to March 8, so now we will not even hear our state aid numbers until after that (date),” Pormilli said.

The superintendent said grant money the school district has received has helped “moving forward, particularly with our cuts, and how it is enhancing some of the work we are doing here.”

The curriculum budget is projected to increase for 2022-23. Administrators said with grant money included in the budget, combined with the need for math and science curriculum updates, administrators are able to increase the curriculum and instruction budget to support these initiatives.

The transportation budget for the upcoming school year is projected to exceed $9 million. At present, the district is transporting 7,966 students to and from school. The projected number for 2022-23 is 7,866 students.

The school district also funds what are known as aid in lieu of transportation payments. That specific type of payment is made to the parents of Jackson children who attend a private school.

Administrators have the option to fund and provide transportation to and from school for private school pupils or to make the aid in lieu of transportation payment and leave the child’s transportation to and from private school in the hands of parents.

The current aid in lieu of transportation payment is $1,000 per child for the school year.

In recent years, Jackson has seen an increase in the number of resident children who attend a private school and an increase in the cost of the aid in lieu of transportation payments.

In 2020-21, administrators allocated $1.3 million for the aid in lieu of transportation payments.

In 2021-22, the school district is spending $2.7 million for the aid in lieu of transportation payments.

In 2022-23, the budgeted amount for the aid in lieu of transportation payments is projected to be $3.1 million, according to district administrators

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