JACKSON – The township school district postponed its school budget public hearing until May 8 to allow for more time to advocate for change and a better plan.
The hearing was rescheduled from its April 26 Board of Education meeting date to May 8 at 5:30 p.m. in the Fine Arts Center of Jackson Memorial High School.
Superintendent Nicole Pormilli explained “in order to have every moment possible to continue to advocate for our students and to create a budget under impossible circumstances, on the advice of the Ocean County Superintendent of Schools, we are moving the date of our Public Hearing to the last possible day within the state-mandated budget calendar.”
Pormilli added, “the district needs as much time as possible to continue to draw attention to its budget crisis and to advocate for relief the district needs. The district is working closely with the Department of Education and the Ocean County Superintendent of Schools on the creation of the budget and will continue to present its data and reasoning in numerous conversations with legislators, county and state officials and the Department of Education to make clear the district’s need for immediate relief.”
Under the S-2 funding formula, the Jackson School District was already scheduled to lose more than $2 million in state aid for the coming year, on top of losing $16 million in aid due to S-2 cuts in the previous five years.
Compounded with inflation, extraordinary increases in nonpublic transportation, and increased English Language Learners and other services, the district remains fighting a “perfect storm,” Pormilli said.
“We are looking for any way possible to keep our district from unraveling in the face of crippling aid cuts and rising expenses outside of our control. We need every moment possible to continue that work,” she said.
Jackson’s school district was one of several in Ocean County that lost a significant amount of state aid under S-2, a 2018 bill that redistributed money away from certain schools and toward others. Originally, they were losing $6.5 million. The state passed a law allowing schools to get 66% of their lost aid back.
Parents were told that even with some restoration of funds, the district’s $2.1 million loss in state aid would still present a problem in maintaining programs and staff.
Pormilli stated during last month’s BOE meeting, “would we be grateful to not have to endure a full $6.5 million cut? Absolutely! However, we are absolutely still in crisis and we absolutely need to keep up our efforts to educate decision-makers in Trenton about our situation.”
The school budget was introduced on March 15. Pormilli testified on March 21 before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee about the crisis the district is facing in light of losing $16 million in aid over the past five years, the district’s efficiency even during impossible times, and the district’s unique rising costs – particularly in the area of nonpublic transportation.
The superintendent said the district is still facing steep cuts for the upcoming school year because it is still facing a massive deficit of revenue due to the years of S-2. Overall, 42% of the district’s state aid has been cut over the last six years.
Board of Education members urged residents to continue to support the effort and use the resources listed on the district website jacksonsd.org/domain/200 or to call Governor Phil Murphy’s office at 1-609-292-6000.