NJ State Aid Flat, Education Funding Up In Christie’s Proposed Budget [AUDIO]
Governor Chris Christie's proposed $32.1 billion budget keeps state aid at last year's levels but increases aid to public schools and colleges.
Christie's proposal includes $212 million more for education. Most school districts would see modest increases in state aid. He will also increase financing for preschool by $14.6 million and school choice aid by $14.2 million.
The school funds would not fully restore the reductions that Christie implemented when he first assumed office, according to the state School Boards Association.
"We're making progress towards that...but for the non-abbott school districts, which is approximately 550 school districts in the state...the funding does not bring them back to that level."
NJEA spokesman Steve Wolmer said while he was relieved to hear about the increase in education funds, the amount isn't enough.
"It's a really miniscule amount...let's be honest...in terms of the total amount of the budget...but it is an increase and that's important."
Wolmer said its important to note that Christie cut education funding for the past two years.
"In the past he has cut $1.4 billion to education...so this only restores about one-seventh of that."
Department of Education officials said individual districts today are expected to receive state aid figures.
The budget also calls for a 6 percent, $107 million across the board increase in funds for higher education, which includes direct aid and tuition aid grants. It comes on the heels of two years of flat or decreased funding.
Municipal aid would remain flat under Christie's proposal and transitional aid would be cut 56% for financially strapped towns.
"The governor has maintained the same funding levels as last year...and that's good news...we have to look at the transitional aid figures and what that all means...but the formula aid that provides a dollar for dollar offset in property taxes has remained constant and that is good news" said Bill Dressel, executive director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities.
Dressel said the 2-percent property tax cap and other tool kit reform measures like the pension and health benefits bills have helped towns hold the line on spending, but more needs to be done.
"There are a lot more tool kit reforms that need to take place."
Mayors, who were hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst, will be pleased that there won't be any cuts, said Dressel. "We are optimistic there won't be any cuts when this is all said and done but that will all depend on the state budget committees and what they decide to do now that they have this blueprint proposal from the governor."
Dressel said today begins several months of budget negotiations.
"It's the start of the budget race and it ends the beginning of July...so we're off and running."
The Legislature must adopt a balanced budget by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.