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Last night, Burlington County Freeholder Mary Ann O’Brien introduced a resolution urging the New Jersey State Legislature and Governor Christie to reform how state aid is distributed to local school districts.
Mayor C. Andre Daniels of Westampton, Mayor Michelle Arnold of Palmyra, Deputy Mayor Alex Robotin of Chesterfield, and Councilman John Kocubinski of North Hanover, along with residents Mike Piper and Tyler Seville of Delran, all spoke in support of the resolution. Each expressed how their local school districts and taxpayers are negatively impacted by the current distribution of state aid and thanked Freeholder O’Brien for her leadership on this issue.
In 2008 the State Legislature passed the School Funding Reform Act establishing a formula for the distribution of state aid to local schools. This formula was designed to provide school districts throughout the state with aid based on their enrollment, tax base, and populations of under-privileged and special needs students.
“Unfortunately the formula was frozen in 2010 at 2008 levels, because of this distribution of aid has not kept pace with growing enrollment in many of our school districts,” said Freeholder O’Brien. “This has led to a fundamentally unfair distribution of the available funding; with nearly 200 select school districts receiving millions of dollars more than the formula recommends despite falling enrollment, while other districts are left woefully underfunded despite serving an increasing number of students.”
“The numbers are staggering,” O’Brien continued. “Hoboken alone receives $7.5 million more than the recommended amount each year. Jersey City receives more than $13,000 per student, in Newark City that number climbs to nearly $15,000, and in Asbury Park it jumps to over $24,000!”
“Compare that to townships that have seen significant increases in enrollment. Delran and Westampton for example, both receive less than $4,000 per student. In Riverton per pupil state aid drops to just $1,500. And in Chesterfield Township the state supports each student with just $524!,” explained O’Brien.
“Simply put; the funding has not followed the students,” O’Brien stated.
All told in Burlington County school districts in Bordentown, Chesterfield, Delran, Edgewater Park, Florence, North Hanover, Palmyra, Riverside, Riverton, Westampton, and Woodland, along with our County vocational schools and the Northern Burlington Regional school district, all receive substantially less funding than the 2008 formula calls for given the increases in enrollment that they have and continue to experience.
“All this means that tax dollars from hard working families in Burlington County are going to subsidize the school districts and property taxes of homeowners in Hoboken, Jersey City, Asbury Park, and elsewhere even as our kids sit in classrooms in underfunded schools. This defies logic and must stop,” O’Brien declared.
Freeholder O’Brien then went on to highlight how the Board has provided essential services for its residents all while making Burlington County a more affordable place to live.
“This Board has made great strides in reducing the County property tax burden for our residents, cutting taxes by more than $20 million dollars and reducing government spending by more than $30 million,” said O’Brien. “At the same time we have been leaders in improving how we educate and train our residents for successful careers. Nowhere is this more clear than in our innovative Workforce Development Initiative, our partnership with Rowan at the new Rowan College at Burlington County, and our recently established Alternative High School.”
“Yet until the State corrects how they distribute school aid to ensure that every child and every taxpayer is treated fairly under the law; our residents will be disadvantaged,” O’Brien explained.
“We urge the New Jersey State Legislature and Governor Christie to act, and to act now, to ensure that state aid is equitably and properly distributed as required by law so that all of our schools have the support they need to educate their students,” O’Brien concluded.