By AUBRIE GEORGE and ROBERT LINNEHAN
Gov. Christie delivered the state’s budget address last week, offering a glimmer of hope for school districts dealing with tight budgets and grim financial futures, but that doesn’t mean cuts and reductions are out for 2011–12 budgets.
The Medford K-8 school district received the news Wednesday afternoon that they will receive about $3.8 million in total state aid to support the 2011–12 budget. That figure is $443,762 more than the approximately $3.4 million in total state aid the district received under the 2010–11 budget.
Fearing state aid could be further reduced over last year, the K-8 district had been planning for a $1.3 million shortfall prior to the Governor’s address. To help fill the gap, officials have been looking at privatizing the district’s teacher assistants and substitute services, which would save about $500,000. Other areas being examined were the loss of 15 to 20 positions and reductions or eliminations to programs.
Superintendent Joseph Del Rossi said the increase in state aid would likely impact the number of budget reductions officials will have to make, but that tough decisions are still ahead. He said the district is very appreciative not to experience another reduction in state aid for the approaching budget.
“The additional state funding will assist us in addressing our shortfall,” Del Rossi said. “It will have a positive impact on the number of reductions that we will have to make. We are still faced with a number of challenges in the future, but the additional funding will be very helpful.”
The Lenape Regional High School District will receive $25.8 million in total state aid this year, which is about $1.2 million more than the state gave the district under the 201`0–11 budget.
School district’s 2011–12 budgets are due to the county superintendent on March 4.
In his address Christie stated that school aid is increasing by $250 million for schools across the state. Last year Christie drastically cut school aid for most districts in the state.
“Today, because of the hard and necessary choices we have made, I am pleased to report we are able to provide an increase of $250 million in school aid,” he said. “This will allow every district in the state to receive increased aid.”
He went on and said that it should be the state’s goal to reform education in New Jersey.
“We need to reward excellent teachers, put an end to automatic tenure, and give parents trapped in failing schools a choice for a better future for their children. Once and for all, we must reward excellence and there must be consequences for failure. This is the way it is all across America — we must finally bring it to all of New Jersey’s classroom,” he said.
Christie also announced good news for state higher education institutions. After several years of cuts to operating support to colleges and universities, Christie said there will be no further reductions in this year’s budget. He proposed $20 million more for student aid programs as well.