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FY '19 Budget Testimony--Judge 4-9-18

Testimony Before the NJ Assembly Budget Committee State House Annex Trenton, NJ Monday, April 9, 2018 Speaker: Kathryn Bay Judge Organization: BOE Member, Cherry Hill School District Home Address: 1033 Heartwood Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003 Phone: (856) 857-1856 E-mail: kathyjudge@chclc.org Good afternoon members of the committee. My name is Kathryn Judge and I am a Board of Education Member from Cherry Hill, the 12 th largest school district in NJ, and I am grateful for the opportunity to shed some light on the lack of funding and would like to address this complex subject in the context of my own district’s experiences. First, I’d like to thank you for the additional aid we received. Last July, we received approximately $1.1 million in additional state aid. This year, we have been slated to receive an additional $596,000 in state aid. We were forced with some very difficult decisions when the Governor confiscated $3.9 million dollars from our fund balance in 2010 and slashed our budget (we were penalized for being frugal). Today, we do not receive what we received in 2009, even though many other school districts have been brought back to at least the 2009 budget levels. The average age of our 19 buildings is at least 50 years old and working space is limited. Our current budget severely restricts maintenance efforts on our 354 acres and 19 schools. We would need a multimillion dollar referendum just for black top. Of our 19 schools, a third are Title I schools. In those six building, one in three children are eligible for free and reduced lunch (33%)! Ninety-one percent of Cherry Hill's school budget is from our local tax payers. Good God….91%!  Is it fair that overfunded districts continue to receive the same amount or are slated to receive more for the coming year?  Is it fair that our children’s safety and security is at risk due a lack of financial resources?  Is it fair that Cherry Hill receives approximately $1,300 per student while the state average is $7,700 per student?  Is it fair that 91% of our budget is funded by local tax payers? In closing, clearly, Cherry Hill is no longer the 'wealthy' or “affluent' school district it once was. Local media still refers to Cherry Hill in this way and it’s incorrect. A former Cherry Hill BOE member spoke at our BOE meeting on March 6, 2018. One of her many points was that Cherry Hill has been fighting for their fair share of funding for at least 28 years. Is that true? I don’t know, but I do know we’ve been severely underfunded for a very long time. Our buildings and grounds reflect that truth. Thank you.

Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608