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3-6-13First Senate Budget Committee hearing on State Budget Proposal for FY 14
(Note: GSCS will be testifying on FY'14 State Budget proposal later this month)

The Record - Advocates press for more funding for schools, towns during N.J. Senate budget hearing

Politickernj.com - Advocates say FY14 proposal doesn't go far enough for schools

The Record - Advocates press for more funding for schools, towns during N.J. Senate budget hearing

 

Politickernj.com - Advocates say FY14 proposal doesn't go far enough for schools

 

The Record - Advocates press for more funding for schools, towns during N.J. Senate budget hearing

Tuesday March 5, 2013, 2:15 PM

BYMICHAEL LINHORST STATE HOUSE BUREAU

Advocates asked for more money for school districts, transportation and towns Tuesday at the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee’s first legislative hearing on Governor Christie's proposed $32.9 billion spending plan.

Christie’s budget, which he unveiled last week, includes almost $9 billion in school aid-- $97 million more than the current fiscal year. But public school advocates said the budget still does not fulfill the school funding formula the state created in 2009.

“The proposed budget underfunds New Jersey public schools by $1.2 billion when compared with what the formula stipulates,” Susan Cauldwell, a representative of Save our Schools NJ, told the committee.

Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Wood-Ridge, chairman of the committee, agreed that state funding should be stepped up.

“Until we fully fund the 2009 formula, school budgets will be balanced on the backs of local property tax payers,” he said. “It’s a hurdle that we’re going to have to keep dealing with going forward. Education is the greatest driver of your property taxes.”

Other senators, though, disagreed whether it would even be possible for the state to live up to the formula.

“Our taxpayers can’t afford to fund the formula as it is. We’ve got to make some tweaks,” said Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth.

Cauldwell also took issue with a $2 million pilot project Christie proposed that would enable about 200 children in chronically failing schools to attend out-of-district public or private schools.

That plan, which she called “misguided,” would drain money better spent on public schools, Cauldwell said.

She spoke during the first in a series of legislative hearings on Christie’s budget proposal. Lawmakers must approve a balanced budget before July 1, according to the state constitution.

Joseph Clift, a rail service advocate and the former Director of Planning for the Long Island Railroad, encouraged New Jersey to devote more money to improving the state’s rail system.

He said the state should shift about $50 million each year from elsewhere in the budget to gradually modernize the Northeast Corridor – the rail line that includes the stretch from Trenton to Manhattan.

Building new train tunnels under the Hudson River and extending NJ Transit service into Grand Central Terminal should be an important long-term goal with incremental steps mapped out along the way, he said.

With Christie’s proposed budget keeping aid for most municipalities flat, the New Jersey League of Municipalities said towns are struggling to balance their budgets.

Costs are rising quickly while revenues are holding steady or declining, Janice Mironov, president of the league, told the committee.

“Property values have declined, tax revenues have decreased,” said Mironov, who is also the mayor of East Windsor. While those revenues fall, insurance premiums, fuel and utility costs and healthcare expenses continue to increase by more than two percent a year, she said.

State law caps property tax levies at 2 percent each year.

Sarlo agreed that rising costs are making it difficult to stay under the tax cap. The senator, who is also mayor of Wood-Ridge, said his town has seen large increases in expenses and has been unable to increase revenues to match.

Christie touted that limit in his budget address to lawmakers last week, saying property taxes went up on average statewide only 1.4 percent in 2012. He said other policy changes, including a cap on public employee interest arbitration awards and new pension rules, are also working to address the state’s high property tax burden.

But Christie has also criticized towns for trying to get around the cap by charging “user fees”for services. Legislation that would limit user fees has been introduced in the State House.

Mironov said she opposed the user fee bill. “We don’t understand why it’s aimed at municipal governments, which are the smallest part of the tax bill,” she said.

Total state aid for municipalities again remained flat in the $32.9 billion budget Christie put forward last week. The proposal does not increase property tax relief at all, even though average property tax bills again rose in 2012. And funding for state aid to municipalities, which is intended to help local officials curb property tax hikes, stayed largely unchanged.

The governor has also proposed a $40 million contingency fund for superstorm Sandy relief that could also help local governments with storm-related costs not reimbursed by the federal government.

Mironov said she would reserve comment on the relief fund until its details are released. But she emphasized that municipalities were badly damaged by Sandy and need help.

“We experienced tremendous costs,” she said.

Email:linhorst@northjersey.com

Politickernj.com - Advocates say FY14 proposal doesn't go far enough for schools

By Matthew Arco | March 5th, 2013 – 12;17 pm

Christie’s fiscal year 2014 budget proposal, residents are decrying the governor’s plan as one that doesn’t do enough for state schools.

School advocates, including the more than 10,000-member Save Our Schools New Jersey group, told Senate lawmakers during the first Fiscal Year 2014 public hearing that Christie’s plan will “underfund the school funding formula for the fifth year in a row,” said Susan Cauldwell, a member of the grassroots organization.

She testified during Tuesday’s Senate Budget and Appropriations public hearing.

“We ask that you once again reject the funding formula changes proposed in the budget and instead put forth a budget that allocates school aid based on the current school funding formula,” said Cauldwell, referring to the bipartisan funding formula adopted by the Legislature in recent years.

“Please do not be fooled by the governor’s claim that no district will lose funding in FY 2014 as compared to FY 2013,” she said. “Had this not been an election year, Save Our Schools NJ believes many districts would have seen a reduction in their state aid.”

Cauldwell echoed comments made by the executive director, David Sciarra, of the Education Law Center shortly after Christie’s annual budget address.

Sciarra told PolitickerNJ that while state aid would increase under the governor’s proposal, funding was still falling short of the mandated levels and argued further that the majority of increased funding did little to keep up with the cost of living.

The state has 232 “under adequacy districts” that will see an increase over last year of only 1.3 percent, Sciarra explained. The $56 million increase to those schools ranges from flat funding to 19 percent, he said, adding that 83 districts will get less than $1,000 of increased aid and 93 will receive less than a $10,000 boost.

“I agree this is the most state aid ever put into the budget,” Sen. Paul Sarlo, (D-36), chairman of the Senate committee, said Tuesday.

“However, [school districts will say] … way to pay yourself on the back,” he said. “Let’s not kid ourselves.”



Read more at http://www.politickernj.com/63732/advocates-say-fy14-proposal-doesnt-go-far-enough-schools#ixzz2Mhl08hOk
or sign up for a free trial of State Street Wire athttp://www.politickernj.com/freetrial


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608
609-394-2828



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