TRENTON, December 2, 2019—Cap relief legislation proposed by Senate President Steve Sweeney would offer an important option for a subset of school districts that cannot provide adequate resources for education as a result of state aid cuts, according to a statement issued by the New Jersey School Boards Association today.
At the same time, the Association urged Governor Murphy to reconsider his opposition to the plan, which he expressed last week.
“We are perplexed by Governor Murphy’s negative response to a limited adjustment to the 2% tax levy cap for some of the school districts scheduled to lose state aid over the next six years,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director. “There have been misperceptions of the purpose of the cap adjustment and its impact.
“The proposal would not allow unrestricted property tax increases for the school districts scheduled to lose state aid over the next six years,” said Feinsod. “Instead, it would allow adjustments to the 2% tax levy cap for a certain number of these districts, exclusively for the purpose of raising the ‘local share,’ that is, the amount of local tax property dollars indicated by the state’s school funding law.”
Under the School Funding Reform Act of 2008, the only funding system deemed constitutional by the state Supreme Court, the “local share” is a component of “adequacy,” which in turn is the level of spending deemed necessary to achieve an “adequate” or “thorough and efficient” education.
“Senator Sweeney was the prime sponsor of the 2% levy cap, which became effective in 2011, and he has consistently cited support for the restriction on property tax levy increases,” said Feinsod. “Therefore, we truly appreciate his understanding that some school districts are in dire need of an adjustment to this state policy.”
Sweeney announced plans for the legislation during a presentation to the NJSBA’s semiannual meeting on November 23.
Over the next year, the cap adjustment—limited to the amount needed to achieve adequacy—would be available only to a segment of the 190 districts scheduled for state aid reductions. These would be districts that need to increase the local property tax levy more than 2% to reach adequacy.
In his statement issued last week, the governor raised the concept of a new statewide revenue source as an alternative to the cap adjustment. However, without changes in the school funding statute, a new revenue source could not be directed to the districts that will be losing school aid.
In addition to the option of a tax cap adjustment, NJSBA supports periodic assessment of the accuracy and effectiveness of the state’s school funding law, and will be implementing its own study of certain aspects of the SFRA over the next few months. The study was approved by the NJSBA membership at NJSBA’s November 23 Delegate Assembly.
The New Jersey School Boards Association is a federation of the state’s local boards of education and includes the majority of New Jersey’s charter schools as associate members. NJSBA provides training, advocacy and support to advance public education and promote the achievement of all students through effective governance.