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Elisabeth Ginsburg, Executive Director
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2-21-12 State Budget Message for Fiscal Year 2012-2013
Star Ledger - Christie proposes $32.1B budget with increased education funding, revenue expectations… “Christie also proposed boosting aid to local school districts across the state by $120 million, bringing the total amount to $7.79 billion, records show. He will also increase financing for preschool by $14.6 million and school choice aid by $14.2 million.”

Politickernj.com - Christie unveils $32.1B budget

The Record - How much Christie's aid plan would help individual schools an unknown... “Lynne Strickland, executive director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools, which represents mostly suburbs, was cautious about the coming aid figures. “An increase is always a plus… but until we know how it really is going to be distributed it’s hard to get a feel for whether it will be well received throughout the state,” she said. “We’ll have to see what the devil is, if there is a devil in the details.”

Tuesday February 21, 2012, 8:31 pm  By Leslie Brody Staff Writer The Record

 

Governor Christie proposed boosting aid to public schools by $121 million Tuesday and now districts are awaiting the details about how much each will receive.

Christie has often charged that the school funding law sends a disproportionate sum to failing urban schools, and has argued more spending does not equal better achievement. Many educators are eager to see if his allocations change the aid distribution among districts.

“Our expectation is the vast majority of districts will receive a slight increase in overall school aid,” said Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff. The figures, however, are not yet set, he said.

Those numbers are due by late Thursday. A spokesman for the education department said the goal was a return to the 2008 school funding formula. That formula calculates the amount necessary to provide an adequate education for each student, and gives extra aid to support programs for students who are poor, disabled or speak limited English.

The governor’s proposed $32.1 billion state budget provides $7.8 billion in that formula aid which includes the main pots of state money sent to public school districts. That’s up $121 million from the current year.

The cost of public education is the biggest driver of local property taxes in New Jersey, and regularly makes up about a third of the state budget. Including payments for school construction debt, and teachers’ pensions and benefits, the spending plan would boost education funding overall to $11.7 billion.

Christie slashed direct aid to public schools by a total of $1.3 billion during his first few months in office, citing the severe fiscal crisis and loss of federal stimulus money. Those cuts prompted many schools to boost class size, eliminate programs and charge students fees to participate in afterschool activities.

The budget Christie signed in June began restoring those cuts, by sending $369 million more to the 556 districts not included in a state Supreme Court ruling that covers funding for New Jersey’s poorest districts, according to the New Jersey School Boards Association. Due to a Supreme Court order last spring, Christie also sent another $447 million to those 31 poor districts, known as Abbott districts. Those schools get the lion’s share of state aid under the court mandate that seeks to give poor students a decent education in areas that can’t raise enough local property taxes to do so.

Overall, Christie proposed $8.87 billion in total state aid to schools, a pot that includes debt service, building aid, extraordinary special education aid, charter schools and funds for textbooks and transportation at private schools. That figure is $213 million above last year’s.

Christie’s plan includes $634 million for preschools, a $15-million increase due largely to higher enrollment, and a $15-million boost, to $37 million, for “school choice” programs that let students enroll in other districts that volunteer to accept them. The budget needs to be approved by the Legislature and signed by Christie before July 1.

New Jersey School Boards Association said in a statement that the governor’s new aid proposal “would continue — but, on a statewide basis, would not complete — the restoration of funding to the non-Abbott districts.” Still, the group said it “greatly appreciates” the proposed increase, and would comment further after district-level figures were available.

David Sciarra, an Education Law Center attorney who has litigated for years to get fair funding for poor children, said the budget proposal shortchanges roughly 220 middle-income districts, such as Clifton, Dumont, Englewood and Leonia. He said they got much less than required under the funding law, and spreading a $121-million increase statewide would not cover what they were entitled to get.

“This budget proposal leaves them in the lurch,’’ Sciarra said. He said Palisades Park, for example — where Christie plans a town hall today — should have gotten at least $1.5 million more in state aid this year under the school funding law, and so should get at least that much additionally in the coming fiscal year.

Lynne Strickland, executive director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools, which represents mostly suburbs, was cautious about the coming aid figures.

“An increase is always a plus… but until we know how it really is going to be distributed it’s hard to get a feel for whether it will be well received throughout the state,” she said. “We’ll have to see what the devil is, if there is a devil in the details.”

Email: brody@northjersey.com

Star Ledger - Christie proposes $32.1B budget with increased education funding, revenue expectations… “Christie also proposed boosting aid to local school districts across the state by $120 million, bringing the total amount to $7.79 billion, records show. He will also increase financing for preschool by $14.6 million and school choice aid by $14.2 million.

Published: Tuesday, February 21, 2012, 4:32 PM Updated: Tuesday, February 21, 2012, 5:08 PM

By Jarrett Renshaw/Statehouse BureauThe Star-Ledger

 

TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie proposed a $32.15 billion budget today that relies on robust revenue growth to deliver about $2 billion in increased spending in several areas, including higher education and aid to local schools.

Saying it is "time to put the New Jersey comeback into high gear," Christie unveiled a spending plan for the fiscal year 2013 that relies on a 7 percent increase in revenue — even though collections in the current year have fallen short of expectations. The plan is in stark contrast to his two previous budgets, which called for steep cuts or flat funding.

“We have left the dark times of lost jobs worsened by overtaxing, overspending and over borrowing,” Christie told the Legislature in his budget address. “Please be clear on this point — we will not return to the path of higher taxes under any circumstances. Not on my watch. To do so would risk stopping the New Jersey Comeback in its tracks.”

A 7 percent increase in revenue would be the fourth-highest year-to-year increase since 2000, records show; in 2003, revenue jumped by 14 percent.

The budget calls for a 6 percent increase in funds for higher education, which is across the board and includes direct aid and tuition aid grants, comes on the heels of two years of flat or decreased financing.

“Because the people of New Jersey stood strong and had faith over the last two years, I am proud to say this budget proposes a nearly 6 percent increase in direct aid to our senior public colleges and universities,” Christie said. “We are able to help make college more available and affordable for New Jersey families. But we need to do more.”

Christie also proposed boosting aid to local school districts across the state by $120 million, bringing the total amount to $7.79 billion, records show. He will also increase financing for preschool by $14.6 million and school choice aid by $14.2 million.

In a briefing earlier today, State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff could not immediately say how the additional money would be disbursed, adding that the allocations would be made public Wednesday.

One group that will not see an increase in financing is property tax payers. Christie is proposing to keep financing for the Homestead Benefit and Senior Freeze program flat.

Reitering the proposal Christie made in his State of the State address last month, he said he wanted to cut income taxes by 10 percent across the board. The cut will be phased in over three years, starting on Jan. 1 , 2013, and costing the state $183 million next year and $1.1 billion by 2016, according to the governor’s estimates.

“A 10 percent tax cut for every working New Jerseyan will help families to keep more of what they earn,” Christie said. “It will make us more competitive with other states and attract more new jobs to New Jersey. Every New Jerseyan deserves a tax cut.”

But Democrats were largely dismissive of the income tax cut, and said the real emphasis should be on reducing property taxes. "No matter how the governor dresses it up, a 10 percent across-the-board income tax cut is still a disproportionately generous gift for the wealthiest among us,"Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) said at a news conference after the governor's address. "Even more puzzling is the lack of details on how the Governor intends to pay for his millionaires’ gift."

She added, “The most glaring omission in his speech, however, was the complete and utter absence of a plan to address property taxes."

The projected revenue increase will help Christie make a $1.06 billion payment into the state’s troubled pension system. While the payment is the largest payment in years, it is well short of the $3.74 billion payment that actuaries say is necessary to meet its obligations.

The lack of a full payment undermines the increase the system saw from last year’s overhaul of pension and health care benefits for public employees.

The $32.1 spending plan for fiscal 2013, which begins July 1, represents an 8 percent increase from the spending in the current budget.

The plan relies on a $288 million surplus, reducing the expected balance to $300 million. The Christie administration has said in the past that maintaining a high surplus was crucial.

“We are comfortable with the level and feel that we can manage spending if necessary,” Sidamon-Eristoff said.

 

 

Politickernj.com - Christie unveils $32.1B budget

By Bill Mooney | February 21st, 2012 - 2:24pm

TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie today unveiled a $32.1 billion budget for fiscal year 2013 – a 3.7 percent increase over this fiscal year’s adjusted budget – that anticipates an improving economy that will allow the state to give more money to schools, make its largest single-year pension payment ever, hikes the earned income tax credit from 20 to 25 percent, and preserves hospital funding at its current level.

In addition to renewing his call for a 10 percent, across-the-board, income tax reduction, Christie’s budget is predicated on an economy that at least in New Jersey will be on the upswing.

“The economy in the state is experiencing a comeback,’’ Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff said. “We are essentially on track.’’

The budget hikes no taxes, and envisions a closing balance of about $300 million.

Among other things:

The budget will hike education aid by $213 million, although the state could not immediately specify which districts will benefit and which will lose funding.

The state intends to make a pension payment of $1.07 billion, its largest ever and the largest since it made $1.04 billion in 2008.

The state will increase the earned income tax credit by 5 percent, estimating that it will provide an average benefit of $495 for working families in the first year of the expansion, which would be 2014.

Hospital funding would remain the same at $986 million, and is related to an overall reform of documentation of charity care spending.

Among other things, the budget outlines a realignment of several state departments.

Senior Services would move from the Department of Health and Senior Services to a new Division of Aging Services.

Children and Youth Programs would exit the Department of Human Services, and the Division of Women would move from the Department of Community Affairs, and both would come under the Department of Children and Families.

Hospital funding would shift from Human Services to the newly named Department of Health.

The Sports and Exposition Authority would become the main agency in charge of attracting sports and entertainment events.

Some categories of funding will take a hit.

The Transitional Aid category, a political football this past budget season, will drop from $170 million to $113 million, but a related category, Consolidated Municipal Property Tax Relief, will grow from $1.29 billion to $1.34 billion.

This is part of the state’s intention of transitioning towns toward self-sufficiency, Sidamon-Eristoff explained.

In addition:

The state will use savings from the closing of the Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital as well as new funding to advance the cause of new community placements.

As far as higher education goes, the state plans to spend $108 million more in support.

 


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



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