TOMS RIVER – “Too little, too late” is a pretty accurate summation of the district’s reaction to the governor’s budget.
The district has been fighting S-2, a law that changed state funding, taking it from districts losing enrollment, like Toms River and Brick, and giving it to other districts.
After doing some new calculations, the cumulative losses for Toms River, over a series of years, will be more than $110 million. There will be a $5.3 million loss for 2020-2021 alone.
In Gov. Phil Murphy’s budget address, he noted $50 million in stabilization aid that will be split between the districts that lost funding due to S-2.
“This is a band-aid, insufficient and unsustainable. Not to mention deceiving,” stated a letter signed by Superintendent David Healy and Business Administrator William Doering. “We have been preliminarily advised that districts will have to apply for this funding through an onerous application process similar to the one we underwent when applying for emergency aid for the past few years, and we were largely denied.”
The stabilization aid will be delivered mid- to late fall. However, districts have to have their budgets complete before July. Therefore, school officials said, the stabilization aid will be too late to stop any cuts to personnel, programs and services for the 2020-2021 school year.
The district also took umbrage with the governor’s message that the state increased its own surplus and rainy day funds.
“The dichotomy between talk of a growing surplus as districts like ours are hemorrhaging is incomprehensible,” the letter by Healy and Doering stated. “This is the rainy day. It’s a deluge, in fact. This is the very emergency for which surpluses are established in the first place. In combination with the $50 million allocated for stabilization aid that the governor has already promised to ‘loser’ districts, he could simply cut his ‘rainy day fund’ deposit to $200 million for just this year and school aid reductions could be halted without taking a single dime from the ‘winner’ school districts. Hundreds of thousands of students’ futures saved for 2020-21, just like that.”
Toms River joined other districts in a lawsuit to make the funding formula public, since the formula has been declared “proprietary.”