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Funding--Testimony--Senate Budget Committee--Kenyon Kummings--3-19

Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee

New Jersey State House P.O. Box 099

Trenton, NJ 08625-0098

March 28, 2019

RE: Cuts to State Aid

 

 

Members of the Senate,

My name is Kenyon Kummings. I am currently the Superintendent for Wildwood Public Schools, the

president of the Cape May County Association of School Administrators, and the Assistant Chair of Support

Our Students (SOS). The SOS is a coalition of over 70 school districts that represent a portion of the 30% of

districts that are having a portion of their state aid transferred to other districts. Districts who do not have

the resources to thoroughly and efficiently educate their students do exist, and the member districts of SOS

acknowledge the need to fund them. However, now that we are living with these cuts and are able to model

the long term negative effects that result from them, we ask the legislature to identify a mechanism to stop

the state aid cuts until a thorough investigation of the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) is completed, and

that the mechanisms that make up the formula are made available to the general public.

The multipliers that are utilized to determine community income and property value continue to

change within districts’ aid notices. For example, Wildwood Public Schools local fair share increased 10.6%

this year which included a 2.4% increase in district wealth, and a 5% increase in equalized valuation (even

though ratables have been decreasing every year for the last 12 years). New Jersey Association of School

Business Officials recently determined that the multipliers for Equalized Valuations have increased 5.30%

and 7.93% respectively over the last two years, although budgets can only increase 2% annually on the local

levy. How can districts reach their fair share as the finish line is being moved further away with each budget

cycle?

Every district is unique, and different outcomes will be realized by each of the SOS districts, but they

will all negatively impact students. For example, Wildwood Public Schools will see its funding reduced by

approximately $2.4 million over the course of the next 6 years. This would represent over 10% of our total

operating expenses. If these cuts continue, we will be forced to make dramatic budget cuts each and every

year over the six-year term. As a result, our district will be severely crippled as we are forced to eliminate

invaluable programs and supports that our students require and deserve.

Our district is unique in that we continuously have one of the highest percentages of students living

below the poverty line in New Jersey (50%). We have a high special education population (24%) as well as a

large number of English Language Learners (35%). Currently we have 40 homeless students enrolled in our

district. We rent space for our early childhood program in order to educate 160 students who we are unable

to house within the buildings we own. Yet, we are considered “Overfunded.”

 

(Page 2)

With that said, we continue to find innovative ways to address the needs of our students. We have

afterschool programs that assist students from grades 1-12, a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) that

enables us to feed all of our students breakfast and lunch at no cost to the parents or community, and many

other programs that address the needs of our students. These important safety nets and programs coupled

with our incredibly committed, qualified, and compassionate faculty lead to the continued success of our

students.

For over two years we have been collectively advocating with other districts in the county in an attempt

to maintain our funding levels. Cape May County school districts stand to lose approximately $26 million

over the course of seven years due to the modifications in the funding formula. The needs within our county

are unique when compared with the rest of New Jersey. Our schools are vital safety nets to the students in

our county especially given that Cape May County has:

• The highest unemployment rate in the state.

• A Median Household Income that is one of the lowest in the state.

• The highest percentage of Senior Citizen population in the state.

• The highest per capita substance abuse rates in the state.

• The highest percentage of homeless students in the state.

• The highest rate of child abuse/neglect in the state.

• The highest juvenile arrest rate in the state.

• The highest percentage of teens 16-19 not working and not in school.

• The highest percentage of Special Education Students in the state.

• Almost 50% of its students participating in the Free and Reduced lunch program.

However, Cape May County also:

• Has the highest percentage of second home ownership in the state.

• Generates a total of state and local tax receipts of $542 million or $1.48 million per day.

• Has the most taxes generated by a New Jersey county on a per capita basis.

The changes that have been made to the funding formula over the last two budget cycles are

robbing Peter to pay Paul, and causing negative outcomes for the districts that are losing aid. I recognize

and value that our Senate is an important advocate for the students of New Jersey, and we ask that you do

so on behalf of ALL of our public school students. Please support Senate bill S3625, its accompanying

Assembly bill A5209, and any other actions that will stop the schedule of state aid cuts before more

students are placed in harm’s way by the current public policy.

Sincerely,

J. Kenyon Kummings

Superintendent


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



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