TRENTON, N.J. – Republicans on the Assembly Education Committee echoed the call to raise the bar on state aid for schools that leads to lower property taxes.
Assembly GOP Leader John DiMaio on Wednesday unveiled a plan to fully fund schools and then require local governments to lower property taxes dollar for dollar.
“This plan would fund schools up to adequacy and lower property taxes. It’s a win-win for every district in the state,” said Assemblyman Erik Simonsen (R-Cape May). “And it doesn’t actually cost the state any more money. In fact, it honors the Supreme Court cases that require more equitable funding and a thorough and efficient education.”
The state has the money to pay for the plan without pulling money from the surplus.
Last year, Gov. Phil Murphy moved $2.95 billion from the property tax relief fund to the unreserved surplus.
Revenue is on track this year to be on par with last year. If not, Republicans say pork spending for special interests, which largely comes from the property tax relief fund, could be reduced to fully fund schools up to adequacy for the first time.
“Governor Murphy keeps saying he is on the way to fully funding schools, but that isn’t the truth,” said Assemblyman Brandon Umba (R-Burlington). “He is only funding up to the state portion of school aid, and he is only doing it by cutting aid to districts that have come to rely on it. The funding formula may say that is fair, but morals say cutting aid to schools is never fair.”
Under a state law passed in 2018, about 200 districts lose aid each year, which has led many districts to be funded below their formula-determined adequacy budget because property taxes can’t rise as much as aid is cut.
The Republican plan would require the state to fund school districts up to their adequacy budget.
“Another thing we hear that isn’t true is that state aid for schools is property tax relief, but the acts don’t back up that claim,” said Assemblywoman Michele Matsikoudis (R-Union). “Governor Murphy won’t fund schools up to adequacy because he thinks property taxes need to be higher than they are. I don’t know a single person that wants their property taxes to rise.”
Since Murphy was elected, school property taxes have increased by more than $1.1 billion.
The plan proposed Wednesday would cut property taxes by at least $1.2 billion. School districts would be required to lower their property taxes dollar-for-dollar with an increase in state aid, and would be allowed to increase property taxes from that lower, baseline amount to ensure every cost schools’ have is covered.
The New Jersey Business & Industry Association, The National Federation of Independent Businesses, the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, and the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey endorsed the Republican plan, lauding its achievable, commonsense approach to lowering taxes, which will strengthen the state’s workforce.