The city’s public schools will receive $399.83 million in state funding for fiscal year 2016, announced the New Jersey Department of Education on Wednesday afternoon. City schools received the same amount last fiscal year.
“I’m relieved that we did not see a reduction,” said Errol Kerr, school board member. He said there was talk of slashing the schools budget by 10-percent or more, but with the same amount of funding as last year the district may avoid deep cuts.
“We’ve been flat funded for the past five-years,” said Kerr. “There’s some critical needs in this district.” He said the district requires funding to modernize and better equip schools for the new computerized state assessments. He said implementing the new Common Core standards also require funds.
Kerr said despite the same funding as last year, the district will still see a reduction due to the amount of money it has to fork out to city charter schools. “We’re being impacted by the charter schools that are taking away [funding],” said Kerr.
School board president Jonathan Hodges has publicly said the district looked at several scenarios one in which the district would slash its budget by as much as 20-percent. Hodges last week said there was a joint meeting scheduled with the city’s governing body to discuss potentially increasing city taxes to fund the city’s schools.
Hodges could not immediately be reached for comments on Wednesday afternoon.
When asked about the possibility of local taxes going up to balance the district’s budget, Kerr said that’s unlikely.
“That’s a dead argument, it’s not going to happen right now,” said Kerr. “You want the city to shut down? Let’s do that.” He said city residents are already paying large sums in taxes every year due to excessive tax hikes over the past years.
State education officials announced $12.7 billion in education funding for school districts throughout the state. There was little increase in state funding to local school districts, in fact, not a single district received a $1 million or more in extra funding.
“State funding for New Jersey’s public schools is once again at the highest level ever, in spite of economic challenges,” said David C. Hespe, state commissioner of education. “This budget is another example of this [governor Chris Christie] Administration’s commitment to supporting education in New Jersey.”
The most substantial increase for any single district went to Hoboken public schools which received a funding increase of $749,133, according to the department.
School districts in Passaic County did not see any increases save Pompton Lakes which received an additional $23,000 in state funding.
The city’s school board is scheduled to discuss the district’s budget during a special meeting on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in its central office: 90 Delaware Avenue.
Corrections: An earlier article stated school board president Jonathan Hodges said the district was intending to cut its budget by as much as 20-percent, when in fact, the district looked at multiple scenarios, one of which, raised the possibility of a 20-percent budget reduction.