Home About GSCS What's New Issues School Funding Coming Up
Quick Links
Meeting Schedule
NJ Legislature
Governor's Office
NJ Department of Education
State Board of Education
GSCS Testimonies
GSCS Data & Charts
Contact Us

Email: gscschools@gmail.com
Phone: 609-394-2828 (office)
             732-618-5755 (cell)

Mailing Address:
Garden State Coalition of Schools
Elisabeth Ginsburg, Executive Director
160 West State Street
Trenton, New Jersey 08608

Search
Twitter

4-17-13 Education Issues in the News, including overwhelming voter OK on school budgets that still require April vote
Politickernj - State Street Wire - School budgets approved in 36 of 39 districts across N.J.

The Record - North Jersey school districts overwhelmingly approve budgets “…Unofficial results from Englewood, Hackensack, East Rutherford, Emerson, Norwood, Midland Park, Ridgewood, Oakland, Garfield, Fairview, Wood-Ridge, Ramsey and Harrington Park – all in Bergen County -- showed voters approving the tax levies…”

Burlington County Times - 19 Burlington County school districts will receive less aid due to school construction debt (GSCS Notes: GSCS first brought this issue to the public with its testimony on the proposed State Budget for FY 2013-2014 March 20, 2013, including a district by district data listing of the impact the fees assessed/scroll down to March 20,2013 on this homepage for testimony and data.)

Star Ledger - Christie vetoes union labor bill championed by Sweeney “…Among the bills Christie signed was the “Anti-Big Brother Act” (S2057), which requires school districts to notify students and parents that school-issued electronic devices may record the students’ activities…”

Politickernj - State Street Wire - School budgets approved in 36 of 39 districts across N.J.

TRENTON - Voters approved 36 of the 39 local school budgets in Tuesday’s annual school elections, the New Jersey School Boards Association said Wednesday, based on preliminary results.

Besides approving 92 percent of the base budgets, voters also approved all second ballot questions and construction proposals.

Legislation enacted last year allows communities to decide whether to hold their school elections on the third Tuesday of April or during the General Election in November.

A total of 501 communities will hold school board member elections in November this year. The law eliminates the requirement that voters in November act on the school district’s proposed budget as long as it remains at or below the state’s 2 percent levy cap.

This year, 41 school districts held April elections. Two of those districts, Newark and Paterson, are state operated and voters in those cities select school board members but do not act on the proposed budget. In the other 39 districts, voters elect board members and act on the budget. Overall, there were 163 candidates on the ballot to fill 119 seats.

Base Budget questions The “base budget” funds the district’s operations for the coming school year. Voters approved 36 of the 39 proposed state budgets, and rejected budgets only in Belleville in Essex County, North Bergen in Hudson County, and Edison in Middlesex County.

Second questions Four school districts proposed questions to spend outside the base budget. Often called “second questions,” these proposals must cite a program, position or purchase to be funded and must indicate if it represents a recurring or a one-time expense. Voters approved all second-question proposals on the ballot this year. They were proposed in the following school districts: Wood-Ridge in Bergen County; Secaucus in Hudson County; the School District of the Chathams in Morris County (which proposed two additional ballot questions), and Greenwich Township in Warren County.

Summary of Additional Ballot Finance Questions

  • Wood-Ridge (Bergen County) – $500,000 for staffing and operational costs associated with the opening of the intermediate schools. – Approved
  • Secaucus (Hudson County) – $175,000 for security personnel in each of the district’s schools. – Approved
  • School District of the Chathams (Morris County) –

Proposal 1: $240,000 for counselors in the elementary and middle schools. – Approved

Proposal 2: $225,000 for a security personnel and a coordinator of district security. – Approved

  • Greenwich Township (Warren County): $670,000 to maintain existing staff, including art and music teachers, physical education teachers and guidance counselors. – Approved

Each of the proposals will result in a permanent increase in the district’s budget.

Summary of Bond Referendum Questions

Total amount approved: $7,167,515

BERGEN COUNTY

East Rutherford – Approved

Renovations to Faust School, including roof and window replacement, electrical and masonry repairs, and asbestos abatement.

Total amount: $530,000

Midland Park – Approved

Partial roof replacement

Total amount: $955,075

GLOUCESTER COUNTY

Franklin Township – Approved

Renovations to replace roof and upgrade the heating/ventilation/air condition system at the Janvier Elementary School.

Total amount: $2,332,440

MORRIS COUNTY

Pequannock – Approved

Construction of a gym addition at the Gerace Elementary School, including new parking, entrance, bathroom facilities and gymnasium.

Total amount: $3,350,000

 

The Record - North Jersey school districts overwhelmingly approve budgets “…Unofficial results from Englewood, Hackensack, East Rutherford, Emerson, Norwood, Midland Park, Ridgewood, Oakland, Garfield, Fairview, Wood-Ridge, Ramsey and Harrington Park – all in Bergen County -- showed voters approving the tax levies…”

Tuesday, April 16, 2013    Last updated: Tuesday April 16, 2013, 11:15 PM BY  JIM NORMAN

 

Voters went to the polls in 23 North Jersey school districts Tuesday, and, in large part, gave approval to proposed tax levies and spending ranging from spending on security to expansion of a gymnasium.

Unofficial results from Englewood, Hackensack, East Rutherford, Emerson, Norwood, Midland Park, Ridgewood, Oakland, Garfield, Fairview, Wood-Ridge, Ramsey and Harrington Park – all in Bergen County -- showed voters approving the tax levies.

In Passaic County, voters in Totowa and the City of Passaic approved the tax levy. Because Paterson is under state control, residents do not vote on the levy to support the school budget.

In Morris County, Pequannock voters approved both the tax levy and also a bond issue for an elementary school gymnasium expansion. Riverdale also passed their budget.

In an exception to the trend, voters in North Bergen, in Hudson County, overwhelmingly rejected a proposed tax levy of $44.3 million. In Secaucus, voters approved the tax levy, along with a bond issue to pay for six new security officers.

The rejection in North Bergen was the 12th in a row. Business Administrator Steven Somick said he wasn't surprised by the result, given the voting history in North Bergen. Now, the township's board of commissioners will set a tax which the school board can accept or reject, Somick said. In the unlikely event that the boards can't agree, the county superintendent would step in, Somick said.

"We're still looking to not take away from any of the programs as well as not lay off anybody," he said. "We're going to work together."

The Wood-Ridge school district's business administrator, Thomas Perez, breathed a sigh of relief at the news that voters approved both the $14.6 million tax levy and a ballot question seeking an additional $500,000 for staffing and operating Wood-Ridge Intermediate School.

In East Rutherford, voters approved the $13.1 million tax levy proposed by the school district. They also approved a ballot question seeking approval to issue $530,000 in bonds to fund a renovation project at the Alfred Faust School.

No candidates there had filed for the two available seats on the school board. There were several write-in candidates, but Borough Clerk Danielle Lorenc said she could not determine Tuesday evening who had won the election due to discrepancies in how the names were written on the ballots. Another difficulty was that the vote tallies for three of the write-in candidates were "pretty close" to one another, she said.

For Garfield resident Rosemary Verga, any increase in taxes was too much to bear. “I’m on disability and I can’t afford to pay anything extra,” Verga, 61, said. But her fellow residents apparently did not share her concern, as voters approved the tax levy put forward by the school district by a vote of 305 to 230, according to unofficial results.

The 15 districts in Bergen County, four in Passaic, two in Hudson and two in Morris that held the elections were among 41 districts out of the 590 statewide that elected to stay with the April school board election tradition.

The vast majority of school districts have abandoned the April election, authorized to do so by a new state law that was passed 15 months ago. Most of the districts made the switch to consolidate their elections with the November elections to save money and take advantage of increased voter turnout.

Another consequence of the shift to November is that school districts choosing that option no longer have to put their budgets on the ballot and allow voters an election-day opportunity to approve or deny spending plans.

The April holdouts have maintained they believe it is more democratic to have voters approve the budget.

“We think it’s important for taxpayers to come out and signal their support for a budget,” said Steven Brown, the Englewood school board president, in the weeks leading up to the balloting. “How do you teach civics and social studies classes about being a democratic society after taking away a vote like that?”

Sticking with the April tradition flew in the face of decades of complaints among districts that election carried the risk of ripping apart a year’s worth of planning in one day. When voters reject a budget, districts have to submit it to the municipal government for approval, a process that often results in unanticipated cuts.

And budgets fail routinely in the past. Even during the height of the economic boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s, about 20 percent of the state’s school district budgets were rejected every year. In 2010, the year Governor Christie urged voters to reject budgets in districts where teachers refused his call for pay freezes, that figure was 58 percent, the highest number since 1976.

Districts were still reeling from that blow in January 2012, when Christie signed the law creating the November option.

Hundreds of districts across the state made the change within weeks. A few, like Bogota, were forced to by their town officials — a provision of the law says that either school districts or town governments can vote to make the change. Many attributed the rush to the perceived increase of stability for districts that no longer needed voter approval for their spending.

The law included the budget waiver as a nod to districts that complained that it was unfair that school budgets were the only public spending plans in the state that required voter approval — a throwback to Colonial times, when residents would come together every year to determine the minutiae of how their towns were run.

State officials also acknowledged that the budget vote no longer held as much weight as it did before a 2010 state law capped annual tax levy increases at 2 percent, and that a November budget vote would be unwieldy because the general election day falls so early in the school year, months before districts begin formulating the coming year’s spending plans.

Staff Writers Kim Lueddeke, Rich Cowen, Evonne Coutros, Hannan Adely, Linh Tat, Matt McGrath and Stephanie Akin contributed to this article.

Email: norman@northjersey.com

Burlington County Times - 19 Burlington County school districts will receive less aid due to school construction debt  (GSCS Notes: GSCS first brought this issue to the public with its testimony on the proposed State Budget for FY 2013-2014 on March,20,2013 including a district by district data listing of the impact the fees assessed/scroll down to March 20,  2013 on this homepage for testimony and data.)

By David Levinsky Staff writer | Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 5:00 am

Democratic lawmakers and an education advocacy group are taking issue with Gov. Chris Christie’s claims that no New Jersey school districts will receive less “formula aid” under his proposed 2014 fiscal year budget.

While it’s true that formula aid is not decreasing for any districts, the Newark-based Education Law Center says nearly half the school districts will see a net reduction in aid because the state is docking them funding for past school construction grants and debt service.

In Burlington County, 33 districts will have their aid docked to help pay off a portion of the state debt for school construction. Among those, 19 will receive less total school aid as a result.

The reductions ranged from a $426,383 loss by the Lenape Regional High School District to a $49 loss to the Chesterfield School District.

The Education Law Center and some lawmakers said the assessment amounted to a hidden tax that would cause local property taxes to rise or force local schools to make cuts.

“The governor is trying to sneak an unauthorized stealth tax into the budget that will hit the public schools in middle-income communities the hardest,” said David Sciara, executive director of the center.

The nonprofit advocacy group often represents children in low-income districts in lawsuits against the state related to school funding.

Christie administration officials say that the governor’s proposed budget calls for New Jersey school districts to receive a record $9 billion in aid next year and that the losses from the school construction assessments are small for most districts.

“In the aggregate, it’s a (small) impact on all but a very few number of districts,” Department of Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf said last week while responding to questions from members of the Assembly Budget Committee.

Michael Drewniak, Christie’s press secretary, said the construction assessment on districts is intentionally calculated separate from the formula aid, which is the main state subsidy for schools.

“When the administration passed on millions in savings to school districts for school construction costs due to favorable refinancing, no one crowed about getting extra formula aid,” Drewniak told the Associated Press. “That’s because it is separate and apart from formula aid, which is being delivered to districts at historic levels in this proposed budget.”

The school construction assessments are not new this year. They were first assessed on districts in 2010 during Christie’s first year in office to help close an estimated $10 billion budget gap.

Language written into the budget that year permitted the state to dock districts 15 percent of the annual interest and principal the state pays for the financing for individual school construction grants.

The assessments were not extended to former Abbott special needs districts such as Pemberton Township and Burlington City because a 1998 New Jersey Supreme Court decision mandated that the state pay the costs of all required school construction in those impoverished districts.

The decision was the impetus for the creation of the state’s school construction program in 2000. Under the original law, the state borrowed $8.6 billion for school projects, dedicating $6 billion to the Abbott districts and $2.6 billion to the remaining districts.

Districts like Lenape Regional, Northern Burlington Regional and Burlington Township received state grants that helped pay a portion of the costs for building renovations or the construction of new buildings, and local school officials have said they accepted the funds believing there were no strings attached.

And while the 15 percent share remains the same this year, districts’ losses have skyrocketed because of increases in the total principal and interest the state is paying off on its bond agreements.

Lenape Regional’s assessment increased 54 percent, from $276,524 in fiscal year 2013 to the proposed $426,383 the district is due to lose next year.

Evesham’s assessment more than doubled, from $2,737 to $8,093, as did Palmyra’s, from $1,286 to $3,043.

For some districts, the loss is muted by a healthy increase in formula aid. For example, Willingboro’s school construction assessment rose 933 percent, from $6,961 to $71,937, but the district is still slated to receive a $449,969 boost in its total state aid.

Others, like Lenape and Burlington Township that received a small or no increase in formula aid, will wind up with net losses.

Burlington Township Business Administrator Mary Ann Bell said the loss of aid was a contrinuting factor in a tough budget year for the district. Its 2013-14 budgets calls for the elimination of eight full-time positions and six part-time positions as well as the outsourcing of 36 paraprofessionals.

“The (school) board had to make choices but this was something we could not control,” Bell said Tuesday about the construction assessment.

School districts also can’t plan for the reduction in aid because its fluctuated year-to-year based on the state’s bonds and financing.

“We’ve never been given an acounting of how (the assessment) is calculated so we can’t anticipate it,” Bell said.

Statewide, 294 districts are being assessed a sum greater than the state aid increase they are slated to receive under Christie’s budget, according to the Education Law Center.

Some Democratic lawmakers want the construction assessments on districts eliminated or at the very least reduced. They note that districts losing aid will likely have to make up for the losses with either higher property taxes or cuts to staff and services.

“Districts made arrangements to build projects based on the state promise of no participation in carrying costs. Now suddenly we’re leveling an assessment on them,” Asssemblyman John Burzichelli, D-3rd of Paulsboro, said last week during the Budget Committee hearing with Cerf. “I don’t know how you do this with a straight face.”

Star Ledger - Christie vetoes union labor bill championed by Sweeney  “…Among the bills Christie signed was the “Anti-Big Brother Act” (S2057), which requires school districts to notify students and parents that school-issued electronic devices may record the students’ activities…”

By Matt Friedman/The Star-Ledger The Star-Ledgeron April 16, 2013

TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie on Monday vetoed a bill that would have allowed towns to hire all-union workers to rebuild key pieces of infrastructure in the wake of Hurricane Sandy under project labor agreements.

In his veto message, Christie said he would not sign the legislation (S2425) “because this bill would significantly alter public contracting in this State at a time when the swift reconstruction, rebuilding, and redevelopment of public infrastructure is a priority.”

The bill, sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), would expand the state’s 11-year-old project labor agreement law to include work on highways, bridges, pumping stations and water and sewage treatment plants.

N.J. Senate passes bill regarding hiring contractors in wake of Hurricane Sandy

The Auditor: An imperfect union

N.J. Senate committee passes bill allowing union workers on some Sandy projects

Many of the state’s Building Trades unions supported the measure, but one member group – the Laborers International Union – opposed it. Sweeney introduced the measure two days after the laborers endorsed Christie for re-election, but has denied the endorsement had anything to do with his push for legislation.

“This was an opportunity to ensure more New Jerseyans went to work,” Sweeney said. “It’s extremely disappointing that the governor chose to veto the bill.”

The governor also conditionally vetoed another Sweeney-sponsored measure (S2211) that would have given tax credits to companies that hire unemployed New Jerseyans. Instead, Christie recommended Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development review the proposal “to ensure that these tax credits would increase long-term employment and justify its $2 billion price tag.”

Among the bills Christie signed was the “Anti-Big Brother Act” (S2057), which requires school districts to notify students and parents that school-issued electronic devices may record the students’ activities.

Christie also signed a bill (S589) that slightly tweaks the state’s farmland tax break program to require farmers sell at least $1,000 worth of homegrown goods to qualify for the tax break on their first 5 acres, up from $500.

 


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