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Jackson BOE's Tentative Budget Struggles Under S2 Funding Cuts

Jackson Board of Education's Tentative Budget Information

Public Hearing April 29

April 3, 2020

JACKSON - The Jackson Board of Education introduced a Tentative Budget that supports curriculum but requires a number of cuts due to devastating state aid losses from the state’s School Funding Formula known as S2.

“This is the hardest budget I have worked on in many, many years,’’ said Superintendent of Schools Genco. “When you lose $3.6 million over two years, and are now losing another $3.5 million this year, it becomes impossible to handle without feeling the pain.’’

The district’s position would have been even more dire if the Township Council had not voted on March 25 to utilize $1 million in surplus funds to help preserve certain elements of the district’s programs and services. 

Prior to that vote, the district’s Tentative Budget included the following losses: class sizes that would explode in every school; greatly diminished staffing for interventionists, who serve educationally at-risk students; ending all before- and after-school enrichment programs; and eliminating all freshmen sports.

“After having made so many other reductions and cuts, those losses would have forever altered the course of our instruction for next year, and years to come,’’ Genco said. “We are so grateful to the Township for stepping in and helping ensure that Jackson students do not lose these vital supports, programs and opportunities.”

According to Mayor Michael Reina, the funding losses being experienced by the district are “atrocious and the programs and services that were on the chopping block would have been devastating.

“There’s a state law that allows us to help the district offset some of these losses, and we followed it to do what we could to help,’’ Reina said. “Through sound financial responsibility in Jackson, we are in a position to help our school district continue to provide the needed programs. During times like this we are not the Township and the District, we are one Jackson.”

Even with this township support, the district’s Tentative Budget will still feature reductions in positions, including in the area of administration, across-the-board reductions in all budget areas and the elimination of all capital improvement projects other than those included in an Energy Savings Improvement Program (ESIP) that will provide energy savings.

The $152,661,707 tentative budget is up a total of 0.76 percent from the previous school budget. The General Fund Tax Levy is increasing by 2 percent, or $1,723,423. The district will receive a total of $44,291,564 in state aid, which is a reduction by $3,281,504 from the previous year.

The total school tax rate under this tentative budget is $1.390 per $100 of assessed home value, which is an increase of .0171 cents from the previous year’s budget. It will cost the average homeowner approximately $56 more per year in school taxes, based on the average home assessment of $328,520, as provided by the tax assessor’s office.

The tentative budget maintains current investments in curriculum and technology, but does not allow the district to make needed capital improvements or significant curricular advancements.

“This is a very lean budget,’’ Genco said. “There is no way around that. If the funding cuts we are experiencing under S2 continue, it’s only going to get worse.’’

The Tentative Budget was introduced March 18 and remains a work in progress until the Public Hearing on the Proposed Budget April 29. The district is in the process of arranging to hold a virtual meeting in keeping with social distancing requirements due to COVID-19. It will release full details of how the public may participate in this public meeting after Spring Break. All school district budget documents and information is available on the district website at www.jacksonsd.org.

The transfer of the funds from the township to the district is allowed under a provision in State Statute 40: 48-17.1, which allows a municipality that has some surplus revenue to apply that revenue for school purposes. The statute states:

“...the governing body may, in its discretion, by resolution adopted at a regular or special meeting thereof, authorize the transfer of and cause to be transferred all or any such part of unappropriated surplus revenue or unappropriated anticipated receipts as the governing body shall deem advisable to the board of education of the school district of the municipality;”

The Township Council voted unanimously at its March 24 meeting to approve the transfer of the funds.

“As a community, we take pride in the quality education provided in our town, and the positive impact that reputation has on property values in Jackson,’’ Council President Barry Calogero said. “Now, perhaps more than ever, we are mindful of how important it is for a community to come together for the betterment of the families we serve. We are proud to make a significant investment in our children, our future.”

“We are incredibly fortunate to share a collaborative, respectful relationship with our township officials,’’ Genco said. “We are proud of our shared services and also our shared philosophy that all decisions must be made with all taxpayers and all stakeholders in mind.”

Genco said the district will continue to battle for changes to this school funding formula, which he said is categorically unfair to Jackson given the district’s level of efficiency and responsible spending. He said the district is part of the SOS or Save our Schools coalition and is also involved in a lawsuit to try to force a change in this law. Among the district’s arguments are:

  • The district spends below the state average and is efficient and responsible with the monies entrusted to us by the taxpayers of Jackson. It is not "overfunded."
  • The district wants the state to freeze the implementation of this school funding law so that the true impact to districts like Jackson can be understood and corrected.
  • The district wants a task force to address the flaws of the school funding formula, so it can be applied fairly to all.