Direct Additional Revenue to School Tax Relief
If revised state revenues, due in mid-April, exceed current projections, the Legislature should increase public school funding, particularly for special education. That was NJSBA’s message to the Assembly Budget Committee in Collingswood on Tuesday during the first public hearing on the education portion of the proposed state budget.
“In addition to addressing some of the difficulties being experienced at the local district level, this added funding will also serve as local tax relief,” Michael Vrancik, director of NJSBA’s governmental relations, urged the lawmakers.
Vrancik noted the difficulties facing school districts in developing budgets after five consecutive years of flat or inadequate state funding and rising fixed costs. He also stressed local school boards’ efficiency efforts, such as the establishment of educational foundations and the joint purchasing of utilities through the Alliance for Competitive Energy Servicesan initiative of NJSBA and two other education groups.
In spite of these efforts, many proposed school budgets will reflect $200-plus per household property tax increases, as well as cuts in services, Vrancik testified.
Hearing Schedule The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee will also hold public hearings on the Fiscal Year 2007 state budget, on April 3 and 5. According to the Office of Legislative Services Web site, however, time slots for both sessions are filled. Readers can obtain updated information about the Legislature’s budget hearing schedule on its site, or by calling (609) 292-8030.
Visit Budget Watch On Line
An NJSBA Budget Watch site will include regularly updated information on the 2006-07 state bud The 2006-07 School Budget and Your Community: A guide for School Board Members; an NJSBA analysis of the components of a successful second ballot question; plus additional resources and links to state-issued information about 2006-07 school aid.
Outreach to Press
A letter-to-the-editor by NJSBA President Patti Pawling should begin appearing in newspapers throughout the state. Pawling’s statement explains that, although Governor Corzine made difficult choices in developing the state budget, local boards of education face equally hard decisions in constructing proposed school budgets for 2006-07.
Stated Pawling: “In his Budget Message, Governor Corzine acknowledged the predicament facing local school boards this year when he said, ‘I appreciate that flat-funding in an inflating environment is a real cut.’ Creating a school budget in this financial environment is no easy task. It involves balancing the community’s education goals with the resources available from the state and from local property taxpayers.
“As citizens go to the polls on April 18, I urge them to keep in mind the challenges facing their local boards of education in determining the financial resources necessary for the education of their community’s children.”
NJSBA Analyzes State Aid
NJSBA’s Governmental Relations Department on Friday issued a Summary of Key Education Programs in the Governor’s FY 2006-2007 Budget Proposal.
- The $30.9 billion proposed in Governor Corzine’s budget includes $2.5 billion in cuts, $2.6 billion in constrained growth and a 1% increase in the sales tax. The budget does not include restoration of rebate cuts made in the FY 2005-06 budget, and proposes to fund only 70% of the state’s current pension obligation. Additionally, the governor proposes to cut over 1,000 positions throughout state government.
- The Governor’s budget proposal provides a $1 billion increase in total school aid. However, almost 80% of the increase ($823.2 million) is allocated for the teachers’ pension fund (TPAF), post retirement medical benefits, debt service on pension obligation bonds and social security payments to districts. Additional aid is allotted for enrollment growth, Abbott pre-school programs, and payment of the state’s school construction bond obligations.
- The state Department of Education issued aid figures to school districts on Thursday, March 23. For a number of districts, the figures show increases or decreases resulting from major shifts in enrollment or from the elimination of certain specialized state-funded programs. (See “Education by the Numbers,” page 1.)
The governor’s office was expected to release its final budget proposal by the end of this week. NJSBA will provide a more detailed analysis at that time.