Approximately 100 people attended the virtual NJSBA Legislative Committee meeting on Saturday. Guest speaker, Senate President Steve Sweeney, addressed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on state finances and other issues facing school districts.
“We thank Senator Sweeney for spending nearly two hours with the Legislative Committee to answer questions submitted by local school board members and to share his insight on critical issues facing public education,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director. “Whether we agree or disagree with Senator Sweeney on a particular issue, he has always been direct and candid.”
During a question-and-answer session, Sweeney said he no longer agrees with the extension of the state’s fiscal year through August. New Jersey is the only state to use that strategy to address the economic impact of the pandemic. In particular, he stressed the need to inform school districts of the status of state aid as soon as possible. Learning about changes in state aid in July or August “just doesn’t cut it,” he said.
In addition, the Senate President spoke about his proposed Employee Job-Sharing Furlough Protection Act, health benefits reform, and tax levy cap adjustments for districts that will experience state aid reductions through 2024-2025. Sweeney also addressed legislation, S-2392/A-3969, that would authorize the Department of Community Affairs to permit municipalities to delay or alter the transmission of property tax revenue to school districts. NJSBA strongly opposes the legislation, which is slated for action in the Senate and Assembly on Thursday.
Sweeney said that the bill was necessary as a result of the governor’s Executive Order permitting municipalities to extend the deadline for residents and businesses to pay their second quarter property taxes, from May 1 to June 1. He said that he believes the legislation will only impact the second quarter of 2020.
Dr. Karen Cortellino, NJSBA vice president for legislation/resolutions, chaired the meeting, which included updates on issues before Congress, the Legislature and the State Board of Education. Jonathan Pushman, legislative advocate, moderated the discussion with Sweeney.