State Raises Verona Public School Aid? Not Really

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NJ Governor Chris ChristieGov. Chris Christie released his 2017 budget this past week, and trumpeted the fact that it includes a record $13 billion investment in education. Almost every district, the governor said, will get more funding. If you heard that, you might come away thinking that the budget is good news for Verona’s public schools.

And you’d be wrong.

According to the figures the state reported, Verona will be getting $29,041 more in general aid, an increase of 3.3%. But it did not say that this is mostly offset by a decrease of $20,330 in debt service aid for construction. So the net change in aid to Verona public schools is actually an increase of $8,711, or about one-half of 1%.

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That’s not all. As the Verona Board of Education reminds the community every year when it presents its budget, when you do the math according to the state’s own school funding formula, we should be getting a lot more more money from Trenton than we do. According to the state school funding formula, Verona public schools should be getting about $1.9 million a year, plus debt service aid. For the 2016-2017 school year, the state is only proposing to fund $916,688 for Verona, leaving us short more than $990,000.

So where are the property taxes that are supposed to be funding the education of our children going? Atlantic City schools will get $33 million more for 2016-2017 under the Christie budget to offset the collapse of its commercial property values. Atlantic City’s property tax revenue has plummeted following the bankruptcies of casinos like Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, Revel AC, Trump Taj Mahal and Trump Entertainment Resorts, and the closing of the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, Revel AC, Showboat Atlantic City, and Trump Plaza casinos. Christie’s budget would also earmark $26.7 million more for Newark Public Schools because of money being paid to city charter schools.

Both districts are already substantially outspending Verona. According to the Taxpayer’s Guide to Education, a database compiled by the New Jersey Department of Education, Atlantic City’s public schools spent $27,411 per pupil in the 2013-14 school year, the most recent year for which data is available. Newark’s public schools spent $22,267 in the same time period.

Verona’s spending per pupil? Just $16,584.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]

1 COMMENT

  1. Right you are about how Verona is getting ripped off by the state.

    NJ’s school aid law (SFRA) is a joke. The amount of money districts get bears no relation to what SFRA recommends. The worst aided district, Chesterfield, gets 9% of its uncapped aid. The highest aided district, Deal, gets 1000% of its uncapped aid.

    In terms of dollars per student, Bound Brook gets $9200 per student less than SFRA says it needs. At the other extreme, Asbury Park gets $10,900 per student more than it should. While most districts are underaided, 199 get MORE than SFRA says they need. 52 districts get over $2000 more per student than SFRA’s core formulas say they need.

    In absolute terms, Jersey City alone gets $130 million more than SFRA’s formulas recommend for it.

    It’s also highly misleading to talk about state aid increases in percentage terms (like the DOE and reporters do). If one district already gets $100 per student and gets a $10 per student increase, it’s a 10% increase. But if another district already gets $10,000 per student and gets a $100 per student increase the increase looks like a trivial 1% increase, however, the latter district’s increase is much more substantial in terms of budgetary impact.

    http://njeducationaid.blogspot.com/2016/03/the-robbers-and-robbed-state-aid.html

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1PWETuCGyr2rxmA98gBtLs2BwG58j8dA_3CEPAsiEpUI/edit#gid=0

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