Toms River Regional school district taxpayers will face a $3.3 million budget shortfall if a compromise plan agreed upon by state Sen. President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto is signed into law.
The plan would cut the regional district’s state aid by $3.3 million, according to northern Ocean County’s legislative delegation, who blasted the potential cuts in a statement issued Thursday.
“We have a property tax crisis that is about to explode as a result of this backroom deal negotiated in secret by Democrats who control the New Jersey Legislature,” said Sen. James Holzapfel. “First, we were devastated by huge ratable losses resulting from Superstorm Sandy, and now we’ll be devastated by massive cuts to our schools thanks to New Jersey Democrats.”
Holzapfel, as well as Assembly members Gregory P. McGuckin and David Wolfe, who represent Toms River, are Republicans. The agreement struck Thursday was among the leading Democrats who control the state legislature. It was unclear if Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, would support the funding compromise.
The agreement will add an additional $125 million in school funding, but would cut aid to many suburban Ocean County districts. Brick, Manchester, Seaside Heights and others would also stand to have aid slashed, the local legislators said.
According to NJ Spotlight, a website that tracks New Jersey public affairs, the deal would add a total of $146 million in additional aid that would go to nearly 400 school districts that have been underfunded for nearly a decade under the state’s school-funding formula. But to pay for that increase, $46 million would be cut from districts that are receiving so-called adjustment aid (also known as “hold harmless” aid), of which Toms River is included.
Additional cuts in aid beyond the initial $2.1 million hit would come in the years to follow.
While Brick and Toms River will lost a combined $5 million, Newark and Elizabeth would both gain $7.5 million under the plan. Jersey City, however, would lose $8.5 million.
“Our schools will lose millions of dollars of funding this year, followed by additional cuts next year and more the year after that,” said Wolfe. “As a long-time educator, it’s nauseating to see New Jersey Democrats gutting education funding and hurting our school children.”
McGuckin called the plan “a slap in the face to our hardworking residents and communities still struggling to rebuild.”
According to the Bergen Record, Christie had little to say on the issue. His office issued a state saying, “the governor is willing to consider the proposal but he has some concerns about fairness.”