TRENTON, N.J. – Schools in Assemblyman Alex Sauickie’s legislative district have been ravaged by state aid cuts under the state’s school funding formula, popularly known as S2. They have been forced to slash staff and programs while other districts saw their state aid balloon.
If taxpayers in his district thought their schools might see relief, they were disappointed when Gov. Phil Murphy delivered his annual budget address Tuesday. Those districts will continue to face steep cuts, despite Murphy promoting his biggest budget — $53.1 billion – which is the largest in the state’s history. Although the state could fund every school district in New Jersey at legally-defined adequacy levels, the governor has instead chosen to hoard a $10 billion surplus and worse, ignore Assembly Republicans’ call to fund schools while cutting property taxes.
Instead, Murphy and Democrats added more than $1 billion in pork to last year’s budget. Sauickie said he expects the same when FY24’s budget is finalized by July 1.
“I look at the governor’s proposed budget and I see plans to spend other people’s money on pet projects and special interests while neglecting the obligation to provide a thorough and efficient education for all New Jersey students,” Sauickie (R-Ocean) said. “Governor Murphy doesn’t even have to touch the surplus to fund our schools, yet he refuses to do it. Our children’s education is too important to be further jeopardized by Trenton political games and reckless spending policies.”
Assembly Republicans last week outlined their plan that ties state aid increases to lowering property taxes. State education aid would increase by $1.2 billion, which would meet every district’s adequacy budget. In return, districts must lower property taxes dollar for dollar. Business leaders have heartily endorsed the plan as good for families and the state’s economy.
Instead, districts like the 10-school Jackson Township School District will see millions more in cuts. That district’s total state aid loss will amount to nearly $20 million while inflation and increasing transportation costs stress its budget. Nine other school districts Sauickie represents have had aid slashed by nearly $72 million under S2, just like scores of others across the state.
“I know the schools in my district have diligently and faithfully asked the hard questions: where can we cut and not hurt our students, staff and community? The knife can only cut so deep before you do permanent damage,” Sauickie added. “The state has the money to fully fund all our schools. Republicans have even presented a plan that allows the governor to keep that surplus. All districts, whether represented by Democrats or Republicans, would benefit.”