March 20, 2009

 

School aid up for some districts

By JOSEPH GIDJUNIS
Courier-Post Staff

More than one-quarter of New Jersey's public school districts will split an increase of $147.5 million in state aid next year, though the majority of schools will have to move forward without aid increases.

District-level state aid figures were announced Wednesday by the state Department of Education, and no districts are seeing their aid cut. Overall, formula-driven state aid to schools is up by nearly 2 percent in the proposed fiscal 2010 budget.

"Given the complexity of this economic situation, any increase at all I think is a huge victory," Education Commissioner Lucille Davy said.

Davy said 170 districts will get abump in their kindergarten through 12th grade aid. In the tri-county region, that includes 10 schools in Burlington County, 13 in Camden County and 14 in Gloucester County.

Burlington County saw few bumps in funding, but Burlington Township came out on top at $902,594. Camden County's largest gains are projected for Pennsauken, $2.3 million, Gloucester Township, $2.2 million, and Black Horse Pike Regional, $1.5 million. Gloucester County's biggest winner is Monroe Township schools, $1.6 million.

Camden City, which already receives $281 million in state aid, would not receive additional K-12 money. But the state-controlled district would likely receive extraordinary aid and money from other funds before the start of the next fiscal year.

The district's state-appointed acting business administrator, David Shafter told the school board members during a special meeting Tuesday that the current budget needs to cut $7.6 million to meet projected revenue.

One of the district's to receive the maximum additional aid, 5 percent over last year's total, is Lindenwold Borough. The school district would receive about $1.1 million more, according to figures released Wednesday. The district's business administrator said she is appreciative, but the students are still getting shortchanged.

"We're still short $1.7 from being fully funded by the formula, but we were capped at 5 percent," said Renee Blizzard, the district's business administrator. "The disheartening part of this is that it would have been tax relief for our residents, but they're not going to receive that now."

Blizzard said the governor's words in his budget address Tuesday gave her hope the formula would grant the district all it is owed. She learned Wednesday that the total would be short.

The Hainesport Township School District is among those not expecting increases in state aid. Aid for the 700-student district will hold steady at $1.54 million, according to the state.

Superintendent Mark Silverstein said the district had been worried about the prospect of an aid cut.

"Obviously, we would have liked to have had more state aid," Silverstein said. "But in this economic climate, we're glad that we're not cut."

Under a tentative budget, property owners in the school district would see a tax increase this year to help cover the rising costs. The average home in Hainesport would see a $50-a-year increase in school property taxes under the spending plan, which must still be voted on.

In Monroe Township, Superintendent Chuck Earling, said the district received a large increase in state aid, but it's still not enough. A $1.6 million increase won't cover the district's $1.9 million loss used to balance this year's budget, he said. The district is now looking at layoffs.

"We're still not out of the woods with our fiscal crisis," Earling said.

Michael Symons of the Gannett State Bureau and staff reporters Adam Smeltz and Kristy Davies contributed to this report. Reach Joseph Gidjunis at (856) 486-2604 or jgidjunis@gannett.com

 

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