Berkeley Questions School Aid

Berkeley Town Hall (Photo by Micromedia Publications)

BERKELEY – As nearby districts are fighting a reduction in state aid, Berkeley officials said that it’s time to take another look at the funding formula that also deals a relatively low payout to township schools.

Across the state, aid was tied to enrollment. Districts with a shrinking number of students saw a reduction in state aid. Districts such as Toms River were hardest hit by this change.

Berkeley schools were spared, but local officials said that they are still negatively impacted by the state funding formula.

Central Regional gets 11 percent of their budget from the state, and the Berkeley Township School District gets 7.5 percent.

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“We’re falling behind as the years go by,” Mayor Carmen Amato said. “State aid is the same, but costs go up.”

The entire funding formula needs to be reconsidered so that all districts get a fair share of the aid, he said.

According to district records, Central Regional receives $4,436,119 in state aid, or 11 percent of their $38,747,569 budget. This leaves $32,075,000 to the taxpayers and $2,236,450 in other forms of revenue.

The Berkeley Township School District receives $2,560,810 in state aid, or 7.5 percent of their $34,148,954 budget. Taxpayers supply $28,933,865 and other funding provides $2,654,279.

“We’re fighting for just over $7 million,” Amato said of the two districts’ combined aid. This is unfair, he said, because Berkeley residents have a lower per capita income than some of the Abbott districts. These were poorer districts that were determined to need extra funding in order to give the students equal education.