Sauickie says some schools have nowhere left to cut

Sauickie says some schools have nowhere left to cut

TRENTON, N.J. – There’s nothing left to cut, Assemblyman Alex Sauickie told the Assembly during its voting session Monday about the Jackson Township School District. Even the state-appointed, district-paid school monitor agrees. Forced to borrow $10 million from the state to fill its budget gaps last year, Jackson is facing a $30 million deficit for its 2024-25 academic year.

But this time, there will be no loan until it’s too late: the state Department of Education informed Jackson officials they are not allowed to borrow money that would save jobs, academics and extracurricular activities, unless they first balance their budget with catastrophic cuts.

“When I met with [the state Department of Education] last week, I met with six of them total, I said, ‘What tools do we have? You’re the DOE…What can you offer them?’” Sauickie (R-Ocean) said. “The response was ‘they may have to make hard decisions like cut more sports teams. They may have to cut more positions.’”

Even if Jackson cut all its sports teams, that would save only $1 million, Sauickie added. And with a 30-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio already in its two high schools, the district would have to cut 250 teaching jobs at minimum to close that $30 million gap, skyrocketing ratios 50-to-1 on average.

Jackson schools have lost $22.4 million in state aid since 2019.

Plumsted schools, which may be forced to take an advance on its state aid to continue operating, would be under the eye of a state-appointed monitor and still face a $2.4 million shortfall next year. Sauickie said that district has cut all clubs and 82 staff positions. Plumsted has lost $6.8 million in state aid since 2019.

With that, Sauickie said he reluctantly supported legislation (A4161) that would provide grants to districts that would restore some of those cuts. Since 2018, hundreds of the state’s 593 school districts have faced cuts under the state funding formula known as S2. Republican lawmakers on Monday called on the Democrat-controlled legislature to consider permanent fixes put forward by them to fully fund all school districts while lowering property taxes.

“I am voting yes for it because it does give back some money to school districts that are literally desperate at this point,” Sauickie said. “This bill does not solve the problem for this year. For some school districts, it’s not even close.”

Video of Sauickie’s speech can be found on his Facebook page, “Assemblyman Alex Sauickie.”