State Sen. Pennacchio blasts Gov. Murphy state aid cuts

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WEST MILFORD - State Sen. Joe Pennacchio, R-26, released a statement condemning the cuts in State Aid- in multi-million dollars- to schools in his legislative district as proposed under Gov. Phil Murphy’s budget.

“When politicians play games with the school funding formula, our children and taxpayers pay the price," Pennaccio said in the release. "It must stop now. Every child counts, no matter where they live. Parts of my district are losing millions in State aid, so Gov. Murphy can pay for new programs we can’t afford. That’s shameful.”

West Milford and Jefferson-both municipalities within Sen. Pennacchio’s Legislative district- face significant cuts in funding.

According to documentation released by the State Department of Education, under Gov. Murphy’s budget proposal, West Milford would lose $950,066 in state aid, and Jefferson Township will lose more than $1,193,302, which represents a 7.7 percent decrease in funding.

“West Milford alone would lose nearly $1 million dollars in school funding under Murphy’s budget and Jefferson would lose even more,” he said, “How are they supposed to make up for such an enormous cut? Because of our Highlands restrictions and the much-needed property tax cap, we have nowhere else to turn when the state cuts our funding. Teachers could be laid off. Thousands of students won’t have the resources they need to succeed.”

The local Board of Education presented its $74.6 million preliminary budget at its Tuesday night meeting, which includes a possible tax increase of 6-cents per $100 of assessed valuation, or about $143 for the owner of a township average home assessed at $247,000, according to the district.

“A budget with these kinds of politically-motivated cuts isn’t strong or fair”, Pennaccio said. “Gov. Murphy is supposed to represent every municipality in New Jersey, but he’s not acting like it. The government shouldn’t get to pick winners and losers.”

Sen. Pennacchio also said that despite drastic changes in the tax base and widespread gentrification, cities such as Hoboken and Jersey City still benefit from school funding gimmicks, such as unnecessary pilot programs and an inequitable amount of school aid, while many other municipalities across New Jersey are still underfunded.

The day before Gov. Murphy delivered his budget address, Sen. Pennacchio, along with fellow Senate Republicans and school superintendents from across New Jersey, announced new school funding reforms.

According to the release, the “Every Child Counts” school funding reform plan Bill Package is designed to improve educational opportunities and lower property taxes by boosting State support for special education, increasing equity and accuracy of school aid allocations, and eliminating gimmicks that allow districts and municipalities to game the funding formula.

“My Senate Republican colleagues and I have a proposed reforms that would create equal educational opportunities for every family, with a particular focus on how we fund special education,” he said. “School funding shouldn’t be used as a slush fund for a progressive agenda. If Gov. Murphy thinks there is extra money in the budget, then he should focus on helping our most vulnerable kids rise up, regardless of where they live.”

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