Toms River Regional Schools is calling on residents to attend what is being billed as the “Rally to Save Toms River” in Trenton on Dec. 10, referring to school funding cutbacks that could lead to layoffs, class size increases and the cutting of some programs in the district, including sports.
After Gov. Phil Murphy, addressing Toms River schools, said the district should not “be left out to dry,” officials are providing buses for students and staff to “hold the governor to his word” by lobbying the state to provide $4.4 million in emergency aid to the district. Residents are being encouraged to carpool to the event, the time and place of which is detailed below.
“The governor has the power and resources to provide immediate financial relief to get us through to next year,” a flyer announcing the event said.
The district is facing a $5.3 million cut in its funding this year, representing a portion of about $18 million over a seven year period that began last year. Making matters worse, the bill that initiated the cuts – S-2 – mandates tax increases, and proposed “fixes” from the state have ratcheted up fear among homeowners. A bill currently pending in the state legislature would allow district like Toms River, whose funding was cut, to allow virtually unlimited property tax increases to close the gap. While the final say would be up to the local school board, the crisis could lead to a scenario under which taxpayers could be pitted against one another – some lobbying for increases in order to maintain jobs and school programs while others lobby to keep New Jersey’s highest-in-the-nation property tax burden in check.
The funding cuts were originally proposed by state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) in 2017 and signed into law during the first year of Murphy’s administration after Sweeney threatened to shut down state government.
“We can not sit idly by while our exemplary schools and proud communities are destroyed,” the flyer states. “We will not quit! Trenton is relying on our apathy if not our fatigue, but we’ve only grown STRONGER and more committed.”
Toms River, along with neighboring Brick Township and several district in similar – or, in Brick’s case, worse – fiscal positions have filed a lawsuit to overturn the bill. The state has placed various impediments in the way, refusing to turn over its own state funding formula with the explanation that it is “proprietary.”
The rally will be held at the Governor’s Office at 225 W State Street, Trenton, on Dec. 10, beginning at the gathering point of Toms River High School North at 9 a.m.