The following offers highlights of the final legislative action during 2005. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2004 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Pressure to reform property taxes hung over the New Jersey legislature in 2005, but no progress was made, prompting the state’s governor-elect to put the issue high on his agenda for 2006.
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A task force recommended in late 2004 that a constitutional convention be held to discuss reworking the state’s revenues to lower the Garden State’s property taxes. But it was up to the 2005 legislature to put that question before voters, and it failed to do so. Gov.-elect Jon D. Corzine, a Democrat, who will be sworn in this month, has said he will convene a special session of the legislature to decide how to tackle the property-tax question.
The state’s $27.4 billion fiscal 2006 budget was exceptionally lean, holding all but the state’s poorest districts flat on basic-funding levels.
The $9.4 billion precollegiate education budget did reflect a 5 percent increase over fiscal 2005, but the extra aid will go to costs such as pensions, and allotments for districts deemed to have above-average enrollment growth, as well as money to develop new tests to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind law.
For the first time, extra money was allotted to five districts that border some of the state’s poorest districts, known as Abbott districts because of long-running school finance litigation by that name. The five so-called Abbott “rim districts” got an extra $20 million.
The legislature also approved a new method for monitoring school districts aimed at facilitating earlier help and making state takeovers less likely.