N.J. Plans Sharp Cuts to Most School Districts

By The Associated Press — March 18, 2010 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

New Jersey school districts learned Wednesday that most districts can expect to lose even more in state aid than they previously were told.

New Jersey School Boards Association spokesman Frank Belluscio said that means districts could be forced to choose in the next few weeks between proposing deep cuts or asking voters to approve big property tax increases in a state where property taxes are already the highest in the nation.

But Education Commissioner Bret Schundler said that if lawmakers quickly approve a public employee pension bill, the impact could be mitigated — and any layoffs may be able to be reversed by the time schools open next fall.

The Education Department on Wednesday announced how it plans to distribute $8 billion to school districts, about a $1 billion decrease or 11 percent less than last year.

Going back to the administration of former Gov. Jon Corzine, who was replaced in January by Chris Christie, education officials had been telling school administrators to prepare for cuts of up to 15 percent.

While the overall reduction is less than that, it is higher for the majority of the state’s 580 districts because the state decided to reduce aid so that most districts would lose about 5 percent of their total current budget.

The smaller wealthy districts would lose all their “formula aid” because the state funds under 5 percent of their total costs. However, they will still get assistance with paying for debt service on construction projects and for special costs for high-needs special education students, among other items.

Belluscio said the deeper-than-expected cuts will force many districts to rethink their budget into their planning process. In most districts, voters will be asked to approve district tax levies on April 20.

Generally, schools are not allowed to ask voters to approve tax hikes of more than 4 percent without state approval. But they can replace lost state aid — meaning districts could propose bigger tax increases. But the higher they go, the more likely they are to be rejected — especially in a recession that has taxpayers stressed.

Schundler said the real problem isn’t that the state guidance turned out to be off.

“The issue is it’s a difficult thing to do when you’re state and federal aid is down when your insurance premiums are up 26 percent and your labor is up 5 percent,” he said on a conference call Wednesday.

Schundler said lawmakers could help the situation by quickly passing a bill that would require school employees to contribute to their health insurance costs. That would save districts money, he said. It would encourage employees close to retirement to retire now so they could retain free lifetime benefits, he said.

If such a law could be adopted in time to take effect by Aug. 1, he said most — and maybe all — laid off workers could be recalled.

Associated Press Writer Geoff Mulvihill wrote this report.

Related Tags:

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
Challenging the Stigma: Emotions and STEM
STEM isn't just equations and logic. Join this webinar and discover how emotions fuel innovation, creativity, & problem-solving in STEM!
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: February 7, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: January 31, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: January 17, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education In Their Own Words The Stories That Stuck With Us, 2023 Edition
Our newsroom selected five stories as among the highlights of our work. Here's why.
4 min read
102523 IMSE Reading BS
Adria Malcolm for Education Week