“Geez,” a fellow pool-goer said to me the other day, “did you see all that state aid Montclair got for its schools? How come Verona didn’t get it?” The short answer is, because it would have been a really bad idea right now, and here’s why.
New Jersey, in its infinite tighten-the-budget wisdom, just doled out $270 million for school facilities improvements. Montclair got about $1.2 million of that, the only town in Essex County to get any money at all. But the state funds only 40% of a project’s cost, which means that Montclair must fund the remaining 60% with a bond–which means a referendum to spend and increase taxes. An increase that will be over and above the increase Montclair is already facing because of its municipal budget shortfall.
Verona has gotten this kind of money in the past, by the way. When we did our big school remodel, we got a similar 40% grant from the old School Construction Authority. But rather than be awarded in bulk, our funding is paid out in installments that are used to make the repayments on the bond that Verona voters approved for the project. One other big difference with Montclair: The interest on our bond was just a touch over 4%; the current market for municipal borrowing could leave Montclair facing an interest rate that is 50% higher. Ouch.