By KATIE MOEN
For Union County HAWK
COUNTY — Union County schools can expect an influx of extra state aid this year, Governor Phil Murphy announced last week.
“The budget proposal unveiled on Tuesday is a reflection of my Administration’s ongoing commitment to maintaining the strength of New Jersey’s school system,” Governor Murphy said in a recent press release, “We place great value on providing all students with access to a world-class education, and this budget continues to support students and school districts. We also know that schools account for more than half of the average property-tax bill in New Jersey. By adequately funding our public schools, we are allowing towns to maintain high-quality educational programs without passing the additional cost on to property taxpayers.”
Governor Murphy’s plan calls for a $650-million increase in direct state aid for fiscal year 2023, bringing the total appropriation to $19.92 billion. Under the terms of the proposed budget, New Jersey’s K-12 schools will receive a total of $19.2 billion in state aid as part of a seven-year plan to raise state spending for public education.
The increases in this year’s budget are intended to help meet the state’s obligation to fully fund schools and reduce increases in local levies from property taxes, Governor Murphy explained, noting that the proposed budget must be approved by the Legislature by Thursday, June 30, in order for it to take effect.
According to information provided by the state treasury department, 385 districts across the state will see an increase in formula aid, the money schools can earmark for classroom instruction, while another 180 are expected to lose money as part of a multi-year reallocation program designed to balance out overspending.
This year’s budget also calls for a one-time, $20-million allocation in “stabilization aid,” Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, acting commissioner of education, said, which can be used to help schools affected by funding cuts find solid ground. Preschool funding also will increase by $68 million this year, for a total of $991.8 million.
According to the press release, the Murphy Administration has increased pre-K investments by more than $240 million since 2018, expanding state-funded pre-K programs by nearly 9,000 seats across the state.
The state’s funding formula dictates that schools should receive additional aid for students who are from low-income families or learning to speak English as their second language because those children historically require more academic support.
Districts also are supposed to receive additional state aid if their enrollment is growing or if their tax base weakens to the point that local communities cannot afford to foot their education expenses without assistance.
Assuming that the budget is able to pass through the Legislature unharmed, Union County schools can expect to see a total of $959,528,443 in direct state aid, up 12.11 percent from last year’s $855,895,105.
Locally, Westfield will see an increase of $1,069,093 for a total of $6,583,617, a 19.9-percent increase from last year. Other local districts, including Clark, Cranford, Scotch Plains-Fanwood, Mountainside and Garwood, also will see dramatic increases.
Clark will see one of the biggest jumps for the area, going from $1,857,539 to $2,388,200 (a 28.5-percent increase). Cranford will go from $3,422,865 to $4,010,604 (a 17-percent increase); Scotch Plains-Fanwood will go from $5,158,094 to $6,262,473 (a 21-percent increase); Mountainside will go from $1,073,337 to $1,292,184 (a 20.39-percent increase); and Garwood will jump from $575,125 to $610,779 (an increase of 6.2 percent).
Although the budget has come up against opposition from adversely-affected districts, Governor Murphy said the state has already waited too long to address discrepancies within the system.
“We inherited a mess that was building over decades,” Mr. Murphy said.
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