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FY '19 Budget Testimony--Scarpallino et al. (Cherry Hill) 4-9-18

Testimony Before the NJ Assembly Budget Committee State House Annex Trenton, NJ Monday, April 9, 2018 Speaker: Jane Scarpellino Ruth Schultz Kathryn Judge Organization: BOE Members, Cherry Hill School District Address: 45 Ranoldo Terrace, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034 Phone: (856) 429-5600 Ext. 4300 E-mail: janescarpallino@chclc.org ruthschultz@chclc.org kathyjudge@chclc.org Good afternoon members of the committee. My name is Jane Scarpellino. I am a Board of Education Member from Cherry Hill, the 12th largest school district in NJ, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be here today with my colleagues Ruth Schultz and Kathy Judge to shed some light on the lack of fair funding and would like to address this complex subject in the context of our district’s experiences. First, I’d like to thank you for the additional state 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. Although we are very appreciative of this, we are still severely underfunded. For the last decade, we have focused our energies on maintaining low class size and instruction of the children of our district. This has concentrated our resources in the classroom, but has also restricted important programs in the district. 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. We would need a multimillion dollar referendum just for black top. We were forced to make some very difficult decisions when Governor Christie confiscated $3.9 million dollars from our fund balance in 2010 and slashed our budget. 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. We’ve focused our limited resources in the classroom with teachers and programs. Our facilities continue to deteriorate. We are no longer in a position to ignore all our health and safety issues of our building, because we do not receive our fair share. At one time, our District Factor Group was IJ. As of the last time District Factor Groups were analyzed, we are now GH. Even that designation no longer accurately reflects our District. While we appreciate the slight increase in state aid this year, the current funding plan continues to perpetuate discrepancies rather than cure them. To give you a brief comparison, our friend in Washington Township is slated to receive approximately $49 million dollars in state aid for the coming 2018-19 school year. We are slated to receive $14.7 million dollars. Washington Township has approximately 7,400 students. Cherry Hill has approximately 11,300 students. This is a difference of = 3,900 students…..almost 4,000 kids! Per student state aid is approximately: Washington Township = $6,600 Cherry Hill = $1,300 Difference $5,300 per student! Why such a disparity of state aid? This is why they have a beautiful athletic stadium, a semi-truck to haul their music and football equipment to away games, they don’t have to charge seniors for their Project Graduation, and they expanded their 1:1 laptop initiative in grades 3 to 12 that began this school year….just to name a few differences. Our high school athletic facilities are lacking bathrooms, adequate lighting and seating, and sufficient parking. We charge between $15- $25 per student for our seniors to attend Project Graduation, and we cannot afford a 1:1 laptop initiative...period! Is this fair to our children? I’m sure you’ve already heard this and will hear it again….the current way of funding our schools in this state is pitting one school district against another. We have nothing against Washington Township. More than anything, we’re just jealous! What we could do with an extra $34 million per year in state aid. 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 funded from our local taxpayers. Just think about that a minute…….91%! This is such a burden to our constituents. Cherry Hill has been dramatically underfunded for years. Please consider the children of all of our underfunded districts as you go through this budgetary process to begin to fairly fund all districts in the State of New Jersey.  Is it fair that 91% of our budget is funded by local tax payers?  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? Thank you again.

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