TOMS RIVER – A referendum for capital improvements is taking a back seat to focusing on getting state aid returned to the district, officials said.
The referendum would upgrade a number of areas, including parking lots, heating and ventilation systems, instructional spaces, and accessibility for people with disabilities.
All the work is prepared for the referendum to be put on the ballot. Various dates had been mentioned. They were aiming at Nov. 6, at one point, with an alternate date of Oct. 2. More recently, the goal was Jan. 22, 2019.
“We had targeted January,” Board of Education President Russell Corby said. Instead, the district decided it would be better to “err on the side of caution.”
The capital improvements are still needed, but the state aid is more of a pressing need.
“We just hit the pause button” on the referendum, he said, to see what Trenton is going to do next. “I think, hopefully, that we’ll get an answer by the end of October.”
The reduction in funding, promulgated by Senate President Stephen Sweeney and signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy, ties funding to enrollment. Since Toms River’s public school enrollment has been declining, they would be receiving less aid.
According to district records, the state aid for the most recent years has been as follows:
- 2009-2010: $71,972,480
- 2010-2011: $62,185,013
- 2011-2012: $66,104,704
- 2012-2013: $67,278,259
- 2013-2014: $67,712,061
- 2014-2015: $68,023,721
- 2015-2016: $68,023,721
- 2016-2017: $68,342,239
- 2017-2018: $68,342,239
Unless things change, future funding is expected to be:
- 2018-19: $65,984,284
- 2019-20: $64,402,399
- 2020-21: $62,425,042
- 2021-22: $59,656,742
- 2022-23: $56,097,500
- 2023-24: $51,945,051
- 2024-25: $47,199,395
According to this schedule, the aid for 2024-25 would be $21 million, or one third, less than it currently is. If all of the cuts were added together, it would be a loss of $70,685,260 over the course of seven school years.
“The focus of the board – and rightly so – is to get our state aid,” Superintendent David Healy said.
It is important to note that the referendum is separate from upgrades that are already underway with help from the Energy Savings Improvement Program, he said. These are $17.8 million worth of projects that are being funded through savings brought about by energy efficiency.
Petition To Refund Schools
A petition demanding the governor and state legislators return school funding has almost reached its goal of 10,000 signatures.
As of press time, 9,453 people signed at change.org/p/new-jersey-governor-save-our-students-help-the-students-of-toms-river-regional-schools-before-it-s-too-late.