|7-15-11 Education Issues in the News|
Press of Atlantic City - Public workers pension reform will save local governments and school boards millions of dollars each year…Public workers pension reform will save local governments and school boards millions of dollars each year
By JOHN FROONJIAN Statehouse Bureau ChiefpressofAtlanticCity.com | Posted: Friday, July 15, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 12:38 am, Fri Jul 15, 2011.
A new law requiring public workers to contribute more to their pensions will save area local governments and school boards more than $4 million in the first year, numbers released Thursday by the Governor’s Office show.
Statewide, the savings will total $43 million in fiscal 2012 and will reach a projected $43 billion over 30 years, a statement from the governor said.
Current year savings range locally from $200,000 in Atlantic City to $20 at the Corbin City Board of Education. The reduction in required contributions to state pension funds appeared to amount to a uniform 5 percent, Press of Atlantic City analysis of the data showed.
Agencies getting the biggest savings in dollar amounts included area county governments, municipal governments in Atlantic City, Vineland and Ocean City and school districts in Vineland, Egg Harbor Township and Millville.
The release of specific contribution savings for every local agency in the state caught officials by surprise.
“This is the first I’m hearing about it,” said Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano. “But if $42,000 in savings is coming to the city of Wildwood, that’s wonderful.”
The law was sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Salem, Gloucester, Cumberland, and signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie on June 28.
“Because we prioritized long-term fiscal stability and acted to fix these broken systems, taxpayers and local governments are now seeing immediate savings this year,” Christie said in a written statement.
“Municipalities, counties, school districts and all local governments will now have these savings to fund critical services, keep teachers in the classroom, and provide property tax relief,”the governor said.
The law creating the savings generated heated opposition from public employee unions, whose members rallied by the thousands in Trenton against the proposal last month. The law requires greater contributions from workers to both pensions and health insurance costs.
Sweeney took heat from some Democrats and the unions for pushing the changes. Thursday’s announced contribution savings, which reflect only reduced pension payments, reflect the up side for taxpayers. Possible savings on health insurance contributions were not released.
“I am gratified that we were able to push these reforms through,” Sweeney said in a statement. “Not only were we able to save the pensions of 800,000 people, but we were also able to provide a much needed break for New Jersey’s taxpayers.”
Hamilton Township Mayor Amy Gatto was told by a reporter that the town’s pension contributions would be reduced by $26,309. She said she was glad for any help in controlling costs, especially after municipal spending increases have been capped by the state at 2 percent a year.
“Any savings we can achieve in any place in our budget is never taken lightly,” she said. “This is certainly going to help.”
She said she hopes state government will pursue more reforms to ease costs for local government.
The Egg Harbor Township school district will realize $70,529 in cost reductions this year, state figures say. But Superintendent Scott McCartney said he had no time to focus now on what effect that might have on the budget.
Officials announced the pension savings only two days after releasing increased state aid figures for schools statewide. McCartney said his district has to decide how it will use an additional $1.1 million in aid by a Tuesday deadline. He noted that budgets, hiring, and programs have all been set already.
“To have to plan everything out by Tuesday, it’s frustrating. To do long-term and short-term planning — it’s farcical,” he said.
Pension savings, he added, “are not on my radar at this point.”
In Wildwood, officials are grappling with a tight budget that prompted five city layoffs in June. Troiano was delighted to hear the city would save $41,793 in pension contributions.
“We need the money. That could keep another person employed and offset some of our expenses,” he said.
The mayor said despite a high ratable base, the costs of maintaining free beaches and public safety for tourists are high.
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Star Ledger - N.J. appeals court sides with Ocean Twp. against Loch Arbour in school funding dispute
Published: Thursday, July 14, 2011, 7:49 PM Updated: Thursday, July 14, 2011, 7:49 PM
MONMOUTH COUNTY— A state appeals court today said the tiny town of Loch Arbour’s hefty bill to educate its students in nearby Ocean Township does not violate the state’s constitution.
The decision upholds a decision last year by Superior Court Judge Thomas Cavanagh who said Loch Arbour, like all other municipalities in New Jersey, had to pay its share of school funding based on property values — even if that meant a 447 percent increase in school taxes.
The litigation brought by Loch Arbour, the state’s only incorporated village, centered on a legislative repeal of a measure that capped the town’s school funding contribution to Ocean Township at $300,000 annually. The bill was repealed along with three others when the state enacted the new school funding formula in 2008. The new formula based a town’s contribution on property values rather than a complex formula.
"The repeal mandated that all municipalities — including the one incorporated village — contribute to the tax levy in an 'equitable and predictable way,'" the court wrote. "That it stripped Loch Arbour of its privilege to a $300,000 on a cap on school taxes is of no moment in analyzing the constitutional argument."
Loch Arbour, a small oceanfront community north of Asbury Park, had entered into an education agreement with Ocean Township, a larger and less affluent neighbor, because it traditionally has had only a few dozen children attending public schools. It contended it should pay into the school district an amount proportionate to the low number of students it sends to Ocean Township.
But Ocean Township argued — and the court agreed — the new funding formula meant Loch Arbour had to pay up, regardless of the effect on residents’ property taxes. Where Loch Arbour used to pay no more than $300,000 toward the funding, its contribution is now nearly $1.9 million.
Loch Arbour Trustee Paul Williams, whose property tax bill went from nearly $18,000 in 2009 to nearly $28,000 this year because of the additional tax, said he is not pleased with the decision but sees the only remedy coming from the Legislature or Gov. Chris Christie. "`I’m very, very, very disappointed. I’m sure the people are disappointed and distraught to say the least with the Appellate Division’s decision," he said.
Martin Arbus, an attorney for Ocean Township, said the decision validates the municipality’s arguments.
Star Ledger - Democratic, Republican legislators share views on NJ budget
Published: Friday, July 15, 2011, 6:35 AM Updated: Friday, July 15, 2011, 8:56 AM
Gov. Chris Christie's line-item veto of New Jersey's state budget drew ire and created drama over the past few days, as Democratic state legislators sought in vain to override the cuts.
Today NJVoices plays host to two New Jersey legislators—Democratic Senator President Stephen Sweeney and Republican Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon—who offer their perspectives on the budget, the cuts and the events of the past two weeks.
Check out their columns, and share your thoughts on the budget and its impact on New Jersey.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney