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Elisabeth Ginsburg, Executive Director
160 West State Street
Trenton, New Jersey 08608

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3-22-06 EMAILNET Governor Corzine's Budget Message
GSCS' First Blush FYI...

GARDEN STATE COALITION OF SCHOOLS

 

 GSCS EMAILNET 3-22-06 

 

Governor Corzine’s Budget Message…First Blush FYI

 

www.gscschools.org                                     gscs2000@gmail.com

210 West State St, Trenton, NJ 08608                                          609 394 2828/fax609 396 7620

 

GSCS quick facts:

 

ü        Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday, April 5, 4 p.m.

       E. Brunswick Board of Education [732 613 6705]. Please RSVP gscs2000@gmail.com.

ü        Legislative hearing schedule on proposed State Budget for FY07 just posted on NJ Legislature website. GSCS is scheduled to testify before the Joint Assembly Budget & Appropriations Committee this Tuesday, March28 and before the Senate Budget & Appropriations Comm.  April 3.

ü       FYI -  State school aid figures will be released tomorrow, Thursday, and should be uploaded to the Department of Education website at the same time.

ü       Link to Department of Education data reports, including state aid for past several years:http://www.state.nj.us/njded/data/

 

GSCS initial take on Governor Corzine’s Budget Message yesterday:

GSCS will be focusing much more in the days and weeks ahead on analyzing and commenting on the Fiscal Year 2007 budget proposed by Governor Corzine. The public has a lot to deal with in terms of understanding what is needed to make New Jersey’s finances whole again, balanced against the needs of children, citizens and communities that continue to grow. Often these needs are competing, especially when the state budget’s viability is at risk. And the state’s fiscal instability effects our local school budgets directly, thus school programs, which has resulted in a continued per pupil decline of state support in our regular operating districts. The debate is not over the fact that the state has an enormous built-in deficit problem to set aright, but how to address that deficit and set the priorities is. This debate will continue through the end of June (for this year) when the legislature passes the Appropriations Act for FY07 and the Governor signs the Act, after choosing whether or not to exercise his veto power.

While recognizing the reality of a state budget that requires immediate basic and structural course correction, GSCS remains very concerned that flat formula aid to regular operating district schools – virtually the same formula dollar amount that was funded in school year 2001-2002 – in actuality results in continued aid per pupil reductions that directly link to compounding property tax burden on communities across New Jersey. Enrollments have grown in regular operating districts by approximately 33,000 students in the same time frame, likewise by 17,000 special education students.

Governor includes $19.5M in new money for special education grants:

However, it's worth noting that there is a $19.5M increase included in the proposed budget for funding for special education programs. By including this new money in his proposed budget, the Governor tips his hat to an outstanding need and we appreciate his practical nod. A total of $15M is designated specifically for support to in-district autism programs and $4.5M is available for special education services in direct grants. This increased funding for special education relates to programs and ideas that GSCS has talked about over the years, and again, specifically supported with facts and figures this year. (See p 10 “Budget in Brief”)

“SCHOOL AID” DATA PRESENTATION:

WHAT REALLY REACHES SCHOOL STUDENTS NEEDS CLARIFICATION

FYI – The biggest big spike in “school aid” funding this year is for pension (TPAF= $743M) and social security funding for teachers a total one-year increase of $823.2M; Governor Corzine has made funding the pension liability a top priority and in this year has increased that aid category to bring it up to 70% of the liability coverage required. The reason “school aid” is asterisked here is that since the state agreed in the 1950’s that it would cover these costs in full, pension obligation has not fallen to localities. Because of this near 50 year state-supported practice, local taxpayers have not had to contribute to this funding.

Therefore, when the state takes action to meet its obligation to teachers in this regard, that action is not felt by local taxpayers, nor does that funding impact schools directly in terms of students and programs. However, since the pension dollars are attributed to “school aid” the public at large is likely to perceive that as money that goes directly to their local students and thus wonder why the schools say they are not receiving adequate aid to support their children’s education quality.

The Budget Brief does explain this in narrative detail (see pps.25-27, 70). Nonetheless, when the data charts and overall totals are utilized by the media, the picture trumps the explanation. This is an unfortunate, since local credibility is at risk and community trust can break down. GSCS encourages the state find a better way to clarify & present how this funding flows. Similarly, increases in Abbott aid which appear in the Governor’s Budget Brief appear to be around $139M, but are presented in the total state amount as aid to schools. While that is true, again some kind of clarification (sound bite?) is warranted to ameliorate local community and public at large understanding.


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



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