BRICK – The school district is planning to keep all programs, staffing, sports, class sizes and facilities for the 2019-2020 school year, but that could change in subsequent years as cuts in state aid get deeper.
The Board of Education introduced the tentative budget during the March 14 meeting that shows a state-mandated tax increase of $2.9 million since the state is imposing a 2 percent property tax increase to help bridge the cut in state aid.
The 2019-2020 budget of $155,411,897 would be supported by a $112,085,560 tax levy, which could change before its final adoption in May.
Brick stands to lose $21 million over seven years (a cumulative $42 million in state funding during that time frame) due to the cut in “adjustment aid” to districts that are considered to be overfunded.
The School Funding Reform Act, or the S-2 bill, re-appropriates the adjustment aid and distributes those funds to other districts that Senate President Stephen Sweeney said were underfunded.
Funding patterns currently use weighted formulas to steer money to districts based on the number of high-needs students and the district’s ability to raise money through property taxes.
The Brick Board of Education has said that some factors have been ignored by the formula, such as an increase in English language learners to the district, the loss of ratables due to Superstorm Sandy, and the high percentage of special needs students.
The S-2 bill forces the school districts who have lost adjustment aid – or who are “under adequacy” – to raise the tax levy by 2 percent each year until adequacy has been reached, but school business administrator James Edwards said it won’t be enough.
The Brick school district took its first $1.9 million hit during the current school year, and the 2019-2020 budget will be down $2.7 million in state aid, said Superintendent Gerard Dalton.
“There’s no doubt that as these state aid cuts continue, if they are to continue, our community is going to have to realize the drastic impact on our schools,” Dalton said.
During Governor Phil Murphy’s March 5 Fiscal Year Budget Address, Dalton and other members of the Brick school community attended a rally in Trenton to protest the cut in state aid.
“We drew attention from Governor Murphy’s staff,” Dalton said during the Board of Education meeting. They met with his staff once already, and at least one more meeting is scheduled.
“It has probably been one of the most daunting years, and there’s still work to be completed. Although we have the initial budget prepared, there’s a lot of fine detail that needs to be addressed,” Dalton said.
Going forward Dalton said details would be finalized and the administration would be communicating about the loss of positions, impacts to programs, and more in upcoming meetings while being sensitive to everyone who is being impacted.
“There are choices that we are going to be forced into that we’ve already been discussing and that we’re not making lightly, and we know there will not be agreement on all of those choices, but we have to make those choices,” the superintendent said.
The next Board of Education meeting will be on Thursday April 11 at 7 p.m. at the Professional Development Center at the Veteran’s Complex.