Some shore towns welcome proposed school fairness formula
The planned fairness school funding formula being proposed by Governor Chris Christie will have unique impacts on every school district and every township municipality should it become a reality, but it could devastate the abbot districts and the towns they're in who may be left scrambling for funds.
It appears like a smoke screen to many New Jersey towns in that any downtrend in school taxes may still face a rise in municipal taxes because of differed funding from school districts.
While the abbot districts and the towns they are in would essentially be left dealing with potential deferred funding from this proposal due to less aid than they may be accustomed to, many other districts in suburban areas could have reason to grin joyfully.
"The fairness tax formula will be great for Brick taxpayers," said Brick Township Mayor John Ducey. "That's what's being proposed for to help the middle class which is what we are, we're a middle class town and it would greatly affect our township taxes for the benefit of our taxpayers."
Ducey adds taxpayers in Brick wouldn't be paying as much because they would be getting their fair share of state aid which would be $6,599 across the state per student under the proposed formula.
"Right now we're only getting $4,045 per student so it would actually increase $2,454 per student which comes out to $21.8 million dollars extra coming in every single year to our schools to make them that much better," said Ducey.
Ducey believes things could be more fair for students and this proposal seems like a good idea.
"For the state of New Jersey there'd be about 530 or so towns that are going to have a great impact upon their school formula, and they would receive more money and more state aid," said Ducey. "There's about 30 towns out there that will receive less and they'll be the ones that'll be impacted."
He adds they are the ones receiving a lot in state aid now so it's not a fairness formula.
"To me every child should be worth the exact same amount," said Ducey. "So every child in the state should receive the same amount of state aid, and that's exactly what this fairness formula does."
Still in another town, things appear to head in a good direction if this comes to fruition.
"To me it's almost a turnstile and that's the way it originally was for Seaside Park," said Seaside Park Borough Administrator Bob Martucci. "We're in a regional school district, and the original concept when it was formed was that the five constituent districts pay their fair share which was simply a proportional share of the children that went there and that was your fair share."
He adds if it was 10 percent then that's what would be paid of everything and ever since the funding formula was developed Martucci says it's been about property values and it still keeps him wondering how.
"The amazing part about this was that when we originally were in this system, there was a vote to be in this system," said Martucci. "Then when they changed it to this property value system, there was no vote, they just changed it which to me was unbelievable that (it) happened. Now, our portion...our regional school tax is $3,940,872 for 23 students, that's $173,913 per student."
Martucci doesn't believe the current system is fair and if the funding formula passes and becomes mandate, then why not smile.
"Everyone in this town could send our students in a stretch limousine, feed them surf and turf, and bring them home, and we'd still be on the great side of that equation," said Martucci.
He says it seems like nobody wants to go near this because "the entire system is predicated on property values and a few other pieces of the equation."
"If your in a town that has few students for high property value and your apart of a regional system...be careful," said Martucci. "If you have high property values in your town, you would never want to be integrated into a regional system because you'll be the cash cow."
Martucci adds this would certainly have a positive impact in Seaside Park.
"If we were nothing more than a sending-receiving district for Central Regional right now," adds Martucci. "It would be 23 students times about $15,000. It would be $345,000 per student plus transportation, we're paying near $4,000,000."
But how would this formula affect future town budgets if it passes and are municipalities preparing ahead?
Martucci says it benefits the SSP budget moving forward but has an understanding of what it could also do to other towns.
"If your in a municipality that has high property values, and you don't have many students...believe me it's crazy...we pay almost $4-million dollars for 23 children," said Martucci.
He believes it's not fair for them given how much it costs per student over there and this is something borough officials have been scratching their heads over for years.
"What's happened over the years is that some municipalities aren't even paying anywhere near their fair share because of pure property value," said Martucci. "Other ones are paying way more than they should be because of their property value. I would love to know how property value has anything to do with education."
He adds their certainly is a difference among a variety of towns and things don't seem fair.
"In the five constituent districts, if you have one child from the lowest paying per student to ours there'd probably be a difference of $150,000-160,000 per student," said Martucci. "Our town, Seaside Park has been challenging this funding formula for well over three decades now."
He says they've done even done special elections but the quest for fairness continues.
"It isn't inherently the municipalities issue...it's a state issue," said Martucci. "It should be fair. If your a proportional share of your student body, then that's what you should be paying right across the line from any kind of bonding right through the cost of operating a school system."
He adds it's a very complex thing to understand and do the math on a number of factors going into the formula, but Martucci says it shouldn't be all that complex.
There may be need for preparation in many towns to look ahead for a possible formula ruling, but some towns already can kind of foresee their outcome.
"There would absolutely be no negative light at all here in Brick Township, that's for sure," said Ducey. "That's what we would prepare ourselves for but this formula is only an added benefit to the tune of $21.8-million dollars basically that our taxpayers have to pay less."
Ducey says this would be an added enhancement to the town but, adds you can plan for this money because it hasn't yet passed the assembly or the senate at this point.
"There's no way for this to increase taxes by any means here in Brick Township," said Ducey. "The only affect it could have is that taxes go down."
How could this affect some of the shore towns closer to the water and beach upon a potential passing of the formula?
"The residents and the homeowners would not have to pay that huge of a tax levy which would mean they could put it towards other things such as renovating houses, putting money into the town...your value of your houses even increase because tax levies are lower," said Martucci. "It only benefits the town."