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Jackson school board introduces $167M budget for 2022-23

JACKSON — The members of the Jackson School District Board of Education have introduced a $167.77 million budget to support the operation of the school district during the 2022-23 school year.

Jackson’s residential and commercial property owners will pay a total tax levy of $99.21 million to support the spending plan, according to information provided by the board.

The budget, which was introduced on March 23, will be the subject of a public hearing on April 27. The board members may adopt the budget following the public hearing.

District administrators said Jackson is continuing to feel the impact of a state law known as S-2 which distributes state aid to New Jersey’s school districts. Jackson has lost state aid on an annual basis since S-2 was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2018.

For the 2022-23 school year, district administrators said they were anticipating a reduction in state aid of $4.1 million, but when the state aid figures for the upcoming school year were released in early March, Jackson’s reduction was $4.6 million, from $38.75 million in 2021-22 to $34.15 million in 2022-23.

There are six elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools in the district. The district’s estimated enrollment as of Oct. 15, 2021 was 7,647 pupils.

During a presentation on the budget, Superintendent of Schools Nicole Pormilli said, “The budget for 2022-23 maintains investments in our curriculum, most of our technology, our extracurricular programs and it will maintain class size. It does not allow the district to make needed capital improvements, nor does it allow the district to expand on programs significantly.”

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

Now, the school district will be reduced by an additional $4.6 million.

“You can see the history of the cuts over the last few years, including the cut we just received of $4.6 million … It is really a devastating cut,” Pormilli said.

The superintendent said district administrators are disappointed and discouraged by the reduction in state aid which was larger than what had been anticipated.

“It is disappointing, discouraging and upsetting. It angers me that during a time in our state where we know our students have had great challenges both academically and mentally that this cut would continue. I can’t understand why (the ongoing reduction in state aid as mandated by S-2) could not have at least been put on pause,” Pormilli said.

District administrators are anticipating a $2.5 million reduction in state aid for the 2023-24 school year.

The superintendent said some of the impacts of the reduction in state aid include the loss of eight positions through attrition and retirement and a reduction in force. Current class sizes will remain.

“In perspective over the last few years, in particular, last year we had a loss of 37 positions. … As we work our way through the budget, if we are able to restore positions that is always our first priority. Teachers in the classroom teaching students is the priority, and keeping our programs,” Pormilli said.

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; and an increase in tuition that is paid to send some students to out-of-district educational facilities.

District administrators said the school tax rate for 2022-23 is expected to be about $1.42 per $100 of assessed valuation. The average home in Jackson is assessed at $329,862. The owner of that home will pay about $4,683 in school taxes during the upcoming year (1.42 x 3,298).

School taxes are one item on a property owner’s total tax bill, which also includes Jackson municipal taxes and Ocean County taxes.

The amount of taxes an individual pays is determined by the assessed value of his home and/or property, and the tax rate that is established by each taxing entity.

Pormilli said district administrators will continue to refine the budget until the April 27 public hearing.

“As always, we work really hard to balance the needs of the district and to be fiscally responsible at the same time,” the superintendent said.

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