|2-8-07 News artiles-editorial re Gov's annoucnement that there will not be a new school funding formula for FY0708|
New school-aid formula not ready for adoption Delay angers some officials; Codey predicts rise in aid for 2007-08 budgets ASBURY PK PRESS 02/8/07
Progress Trenton Style - STAR LEDGER 2-8-07 "...The school aid formula re mains unchanged. With schools responsible for at least 55 percent of the property tax bill, how can any real reform occur without addressing a redistribution of that aid?
As with past property tax plans, the overriding goal for legislators has always been to get through the next election. If the type of government reform promised during those heady days last summer had to be sacrificed, so be it..."
Seven months later, what we got was mere tinkering with re bates. No changes in the way state and local governments raise revenue or how they spend it.
A lot of spin is under way to convince taxpayers the legislation adopted this week is groundbreaking. Don't believe it.
In fact, the promised rebates are only slightly more than what homeowners got in 2004. Only in Trenton would return ing to what we had three years ago be considered progress. And the rebates could shrink just as quickly because, despite Corzine's demands that the reductions be sustainable, there's no long-term guarantee that the money will be available two or three years from now.
Then there's the property tax cap that's not a cap at all because there's an exemption for everything.
The school aid formula re mains unchanged. With schools responsible for at least 55 percent of the property tax bill, how can any real reform occur without addressing a redistribution of that aid?
As with past property tax plans, the overriding goal for legislators has always been to get through the next election. If the type of government reform promised during those heady days last summer had to be sacrificed, so be it.
The bills sitting on Corzine's desk will get those wanting to return to Trenton next year re- elected. It's just that this time it was supposed to be different. There would be no deepening of the public's disillusionment with politicians because this time they would make good on their promises.
For a while, we actually be lieved them. Shame on us.
BY JONATHAN TAMARI
GANNETT STATE BUREAU
TRENTON — Overshadowed by the drama in the Senate and the promise of increased tax relief this week was a quieter decision that puts off a key piece of property tax reform for at least another year.
Earlier this week, Gov. Corzine said the state would not finish its work on a new school funding formula in time for the next round of school budgets. Local districts are working up 2007-08 budgets now, waiting to hear later this month about their state aid.
With school costs making up more than half of the average property tax bill, a new school funding plan was aimed at taking some pressure off local taxes and easing state aid disparities between some city schools and their counterparts in other urban, suburban and rural areas.
Corzine's decision has riled some suburban lawmakers, who say their districts desperately need a new formula after five years in which aid to their schools was held almost entirely flat.
"School districts supported locally by working families are fed up and they can't take it anymore," said Sen. Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex.
State Education Commissioner Lucille Davy said Wednesday that it is more important to take time with the new formula that must factor in complex questions about affordability, equity and constitutionality.
"(Corzine would) rather have a formula that is equitable and constitutional that takes us a little more time," Davy said.
A recent report from three consultants hired by her department generally approved of its plans but recommended several changes, Davy said.
David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center, which sued the state to boost state funds for poor, urban school districts, said the state has underestimated the cost of education and praised Corzine for providing a chance to correct the funding plans.
Despite the delay, Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-Essex, said he expects the state to deliver an increase in state school aid this year.
Several lawmakers have cited the funding formula as the most important piece of the six-month property tax reform effort. They criticized the delay, which most likely will put off a new state aid plan until the 2008-09 school year.
"It is absolutely essential that we overhaul the way we fund our schools if we are going to restore equity to the process and help to alleviate the recent spike in property taxes," said Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth.
One of the biggest complaints about the current funding plan is the gap between the 31 Abbott districts, which receive court-mandated aid increases, and other districts. Abbott schools have 23 percent of statewide enrollment and receive 58 percent of state aid.
Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608