Charging State For Private School Busing Narrowly Supported

Photo by Jason Allentoff

  JACKSON – Township Council members endorsed a bill that would take some of the burden off paying for private school buses, but it wasn’t unanimous.

  Assemblyman Alex Sauickie (R-12th), a former councilman, drafted a bill which has been strongly supported by the Jackson Board of Education. It would establish a three-year pilot program that would fund private school transportation with state money for certain eligible school districts in the state, including Jackson.

  “Assembly bill A-4461 is the not the be-all, end-all solution but it is something and it will lessen the cost on taxpayers and remove the state mandate on public schools that pay for the transportation of non-public school students in our town and in other towns,” Councilman Nino Borrelli said.

  He noted that the State mandates school districts pay for non-public school busing. However, he thinks that the state should pay for it since the state requires it. He urged Jackson residents and residents of other eligible towns in the bill to support the legislation and call for its vote immediately.

  It would benefit Howell Township in Monmouth County as well as Ocean County communities such as Toms River, Manchester, Lakewood and Brick townships.

  Councilwoman Jennifer Kuhn and Councilman Scott Sargent, a former member of the Jackson Board of Education, voted against the resolution.

  In a joint statement to The Jackson Times, they said they fully support increased funding for the Jackson School District and would welcome increased state aid with open arms but they don’t believe this resolution is appropriate at this time for several reasons.

  “This bill has no senate sponsors. Amidst the current political climate in Trenton, a Republican sponsored bill with a high price tag has no path forward for eventual passage. The root cause of the school district’s financial woes is the S-2 funding cuts passed by Trenton,” their statement added..

  They noted that, “the S-2 bill has trimmed approximately $15 million dollars from next year’s budget alone. We need to spend any political capital we have fighting the root cause of the issue instead of shifting the blame for the budgetary woes onto the tax paying private school parents.”

  “Private school transportation is about 2% of the district’s total budget. The S-2 cuts have trimmed close to 10% off the total budget. The Democratic leadership in Trenton calls the Jackson School District ‘overfunded.’ For the sake of the next generation of leaders being educated in the Jackson school system it is time to focus on the real culprit which is the S-2 cuts,” they added.

  The statement adds, “we would be wiser finding other townships with similar cuts (Democrat towns such has Jersey City) and make a stronger coalition to reverse the S-2 cuts.”

  “I want to echo Councilman Borrelli’s support of Assembly Bill A-4461 which is on our resolution 119-23,” Council Vice President Steve Chisholm said.

  The resolution was approved in a three to two vote as Council President Martin Flemming also voted in favor of it.

  The vote fell upon party lines, so to speak. Although they are all Republican, there has been a division between the council majority, who voted for it, and the council minority, who voted against it.

  In other news, Councilman Sargent noted his disappointment that his request to trash the “Dumpster ordinance” that was approved last year wasn’t on the night’s agenda.”

  “I wanted to once again express my displeasure with that ordinance. It is an undue tax on the residents of Jackson and once again I want to ask the Council President (Martin Flemming) to review that ordinance,” he added.

  The ordinance requires the rental of large garbage containers when work is being done.

Rova Farms Committee

  Sargent also reported on a meeting of the Rova Farms Committee. “I think there is a lot of work that can be done.” He said he would be voting against an item on the agenda that pertained to Rova Farms “based on the idea that we need to re-review all the people on that committee and make sure we have the right people in place.”

  In contrast, Chisholm said, “I will be voting for the Rova Farms Committee reauthorization and their members. They have been a great group to work with. They love our town. They love the community.”

  “They work hard and show up at every meeting and they all contribute one way or another. They are a hard-working bunch and I thank them for their service,” Chisholm added. That measure was also approved in the same three to two vote.

George And Abe

  Chisholm also reminded residents that February features, in addition to Valentine’s Day, President George Washington and President Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays which he noted in irritation had been merged together as President’s Day as the legal holiday.

  Chisholm urged parents to let their children know about the character of Washington and Lincoln and “the greatness we used to know and what America was founded on not the nonsense and tripe we hear today in schools. That isn’t a knock on the teachers but the curriculum forced on us by (Washington) D.C. and Trenton.”