School aid bill advances

TRENTON – The Senate Budget Committee released a bill Thursday that would eliminate the state aid growth limit for a school district in a municipality in which at least one-third of the residents are 65 years old or older.

Under current law, school districts are subject to a state aid growth limit; in a single year, a district’s state aid may not increase by more than 10 percent or 20 percent, depending on the district’s expenditure level, relative to the prior school year.

In the case of a regional school district, the state aid growth limit would be eliminated if more that 33.3 percent of the residents are 65 or older according to the most recent federal decennial census.

One of the towns that would benefit is Monroe Township in Middlesex County, which is in the district of bill sponsor Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-14) of West Windsor.

Monroe School District officials supported the bill, saying the town’s wealth is not reflected by the fact that there are numerous residents living in age-restricted homes or on fixed incomes. 
Kenneth Hamilton, the superintendent, supported the bill, saying it makes it more equitable in the amount of state aid that’s given to a district.

“It’s a remedy to a problem our current formula fails to address,” he said.

Officials said the 40-square-mile-plus town has evolved from a sparse agrarian community to a rapidly developing suburb. The district, Hamilton said, also has high transportation costs because there are so few sidewalks in town and the district can’t expect students to walk to school in such a large town.

The bill would benefit other towns, including Rockleigh, Haddonfield, Lavallette, Long Beach Island, and Manchaster.

Monroe, alone, would stand to receive $4.7 million in additional state aid, all of which would go toward reducing the tax levy.

Sen. Jennifer Beck said she would not support the bill, saying she had a lot of unanswered questions. 

Sen. Joe Pennachio said, “The funding formula itself is the problem. We’re not getting anywhere near the funding we should be.”


School aid bill advances