Revised school funding: Middlesex, Union win big; Ocean, Monmouth lose
TRENTON — Lawmakers are due Thursday at the Statehouse for their last sessions before the deadline for passing a budget – and there will still be drama, even though they’ve struck a deal with Gov. Chris Christie on spending and an increase in school aid.
Presuming the budget is enacted intact – which depends on whether lawmakers pass a bill revamping Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and limiting its surplus, and Christie’s response if they do not – state aid to schools will be boosted an extra $181 million, though not distributed evenly.
For 73 districts, the school-aid machinations of the past week haven’t been consequential, as their funding will remain the same as what was promised in early March, right after Christie delivered his budget to lawmakers.
Search the database at the end of this article to see how your district compares.
For 379 districts, the changes being made will mean extra state funding for the upcoming school year – largely because $100 million would be added, but also because $31 million in existing funds are being reallocated to growing districts shortchanged in eight years of ignoring the funding formula.
Combined those changes mean $18.5 million more for schools in Middlesex County, $15 million more for Union County and more than $13 million apiece in Bergen and Passaic counties.
But the redistribution of $31 million means 126 districts would get less than promised in March. The good news for most of them is that the cutbacks wouldn’t be as severe as announced last week, after Christie persuaded lawmakers to cap cuts at 2 percent of state aid, rather than 1.5 percent of a school system’s total budget.
Losses were cut by more than half in more than 80 percent of districts losing money.
Ocean County still loses the most, $2.7 million. But some of its districts are among the biggest beneficiaries of the revisions in the redistribution plan. Toms River Regional will lose nearly $2 million less than first planned. Brick loses $1.4 million less.
Four Monmouth districts – Manalapan-Englishtown Regional, Middletown, Neptune Township and Ocean Township – are also among the 10 districts that sidestep the biggest losses due to the revision Christie negotiated.
The revamped reallocation of school aid means the districts gaining under the changes will split slightly less than the Democrats’ plan called for last week.
The compromise with Christie means the increases in aid will be $800,000 smaller in Elizabeth and Newark, about $650,000 smaller in Atlantic City and $600,000 smaller in Woodbridge. Still, each will pick up $5 million to $6.7 million in additional funding because of the changes.
There’s still a chance that none of those changes go through. Christie has made acceptance of the changes to the budget contingent on lawmakers passing a bill affecting finances and governance at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, but that bill has hit resistance, especially in the Assembly.
Christie hasn’t said what he’ll do regarding the budget if the Horizon changes he wants are not approved, but through his line-items veto authority he can – and typically does – make extensive changes to the budgets passed by Democrats.
The state will determine later how $50 million in additional aid, equally split between preschool expansion and extraordinary special education, will be allocated.