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Board of Education Holds Public Hearing on Proposed $198.6 Million Budget

New Brunswick Schools To See Largest Increase to State Aid in Years: $1.2 Million
Charlie Kratovil

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The Hub City's K-12 schools will see their largest increase to state aid in years, under a state budget proposal made by the Christie administration for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

Parents, students, and other community members will have the opportunity to voice their input at a March 22 public hearing at the New Brunswick High School Auditorium at 7:00 pm.

State aid makes up over two thirds of the school's yearly budget, while the rest comes from federal grants and the local tax levy.

The state government is proposing a total of $124.3 million in aid, just over $1.2 million more than from last year's $123 million that went towards the New Brunswick School District.

Federal aid will make up $6.1 million, while the local tax levy will make up $28.9 million, up from $27.9 million last year and $27.3 million the year before.

In terms of student enrollment, New Brunswick school officials anticipate the total number of students to be at 9,803, up from 9,426 during the previous academic year.

The Governor's proposed budget will pump an additional $94.3 million into New Jersey's K-12 schools. Yet the money amounts to just one percent of the state's $9.1 billion K-12 allocation, and the $1.2 million will hardly make a dent in New Brunswick's $198.6 million overall budget. 

The $1.2 million aid increase will still not be enough to prevent a $3 million decrease in the district's total revenue loss. The 2016/2017 budget shows that the district has $4.8 million less in revenue from the 2014/2015 year. The amount in question is listed was listed as "prior year encumbrances." 

Richard Jannarone, Business Administrator for the New Brunswick School District, wrote in an email that the $4.8 million reflects outstanding expenses that were not paid as of the closing of the prior fiscal year, which ended on June 30th, 2014.

"Those purchase orders get added to the next year’s budget after the year end for the purpose of the state budget," he added. Since the $4.8 million in expenses were not paid, they were listed as revenue rather than expenditures.

"We pay about 90 million of bills year round and never do we have all bills that are for the school year ending June 30th paid by June 30th."

Jannarone did not respond to inquiries or requests on a breakdown of the $4.8 million in unpaid expenses. 

Other loses include $203,657 in miscellaneous state aid and $103,683 in the transfer of other funds.

The $3 million revenue lose will be matched with $3 million in spending cuts. Employee benefits, for example, will spend over $1 million less this year. Child study teams will lose roughly $100,000 from their budget. 

Athletics instruction will lose $63,000, before/after school programs will lose $125,000 and operations and maintenance of plant services will lose $2.6 million. 

Direct aid for K-12 school districts has remained flat year after year since Christie took office. This year, the Governor's proposed budget includes no new tax increases, a move which has cost the state over $2 billion in revenue in recent years. 

State aid to school district is based on a funding formula passed into law by the State Legislature in 2008. But year after year, the state has struggled to match the numbers laid out for each district in the formula. 

The proposed 2017 budget features on overall increase of $453.6 million, but the majority of that is going towards pension and debt payments, leaving behind only $94.3 million to going to New Jersey's nearly 600 school districts. 

But even among that amount, $32 million will be going to struggling districts like Atlantic City, $25.9 million will be going to districts that send a majority of their students to charter schools, $13.4 million will be going towards teacher-training, and $1.2 million will be going towards the state's interdistrict "Public School Choice" program.

The remaining $36 million will in turn be designated as the increased formula funding. 

While state laws require a "thorough and efficient" education system in each community, those are in turn trumped by the requirement that the Governor and State Legislative provide a balanced budget. 

"School aid once again falls more than $1 billion short of what the state's funding formula requires, for a total of more than $8 billion during his administration," NJEA president Wendell Steinhauer said in a statement.