By Vin Gopal
As we see the ebb and flow of student enrollment leading to changes in school funding, it is imperative that we support our schools as much as possible.
That’s why it’s gratifying both as your local representative in Trenton and as the chair of the Senate Education Committee to report that the State Budget adopted last Friday has a lot of good news for Legislative District 11 school districts and taxpayers.
The funding secured for schools in the district includes $420 million in Extraordinary Special Education Funding; $257,592,000 in Adjustment Aid; $331,738,000 in Transportation Aid, and more than $1.035 billion from the School Construction and Renovation Fund for Legislative District 11 school districts to make much needed facility improvements.
This funding will help our schools to better serve our students in a multitude of ways, and ease the burden for property taxpayers. Here are examples of projects and improvements the budget will fund in our area:
Neptune City School District, Library Construction, $100,000
Ocean Township School District, Cybersecurity Network Improvements, $287,000
Eatontown Public Schools, Capital Improvements, $100,000
Freehold Regional Schools, Capital Improvements, $100,000
The state’s school funding formula went a decade without serious examination or updating. The revamp of the school funding formula two years ago was an effort to distribute aid more fairly, but some districts whose enrollment had declined got hit hard and all at once. The 2023 State Budget restores state aid for extraordinary special education and the formula is now nearing full funding.
This funding will help to offset the costs that come with taking care of our students who may need additional help. This funding is so important because every child deserves access to quality education.
Parents work hard to give their kids a better life. Educators strive to create an atmosphere for student success; to give them a strong foundation on which to build a bright future. Teachers, parents, most of all, students deserve help addressing the loss of some state aid in the State Legislature’s revamp of the school funding formula.
I have spent the past several months working in a bi-partisan effort with leadership in Trenton to secure direct funds for their residents. The work will pay off for Monmouth County residents over the year ahead and beyond. In addition to the funding for education, the State Budget includes funds for many Monmouth County nonprofits and organizations that are addressing serious problems such as the mental health crisis and food scarcity.
Homeowners and renters also will get a significant benefit from the State Budget in their 2023 property taxes, when the Affordable New Jersey Communities for Homeowners and Renters (ANCHOR) program replaces the Homestead Rebate program in effort to reach more residents who are in need of assistance. The budget includes $2 billion from the current revenue surplus for ANCHOR. The program increases property tax rebates and expands income eligibility levels to benefit nearly four times more New Jersey residents than the Homestead Rebate. ANCHOR rebates of $1,000 or $1,500, depending on income, far surpass the average Homestead Rebate of $626.
There is still much to be done and I welcome your ideas and suggestions as we work together to make our towns and our state fairer and more affordable. Please never hesitate to contact me with your ideas and suggestions at SenGopal@njleg.org or call my Senate office at (732) 695-3371.