Home Palmyra News High to low: Palmyra school district faces state aid cuts

High to low: Palmyra school district faces state aid cuts

It was just last month when Palmyra school officials celebrated a high note.

The community overwhelmingly supported a $18.4-million bond referendum that Interim Superintendent Mark Pease said “represents safer schools and improved facilities for our teachers and students to work and learn in.”

The anticipated facility renovations and repairs to all the district’s buildings will have “a positive impact on our students, staff, and community,” he added.

Elation has turned to despair as school officials face a possible reduction in state aid of $1,070,732 for the 2024-’25 school year.

Pease addressed the issue in a letter to the community on March 28.

The reduction in state aid was reduced because District Income dramatically increased from 2020 (used to calculate Equalization Aid for the school year) to 2021 (used to calculate state aid for next school year).

District Income means the aggregate income of residents in the taxing district or districts, based upon data provided by the Division of Taxation in the New Jersey Department of the Treasury and contained on New Jersey state income tax forms.

“Our District Income went from $217,109,243 in 2019 to $208,454,233 in 2020 (a 3.99% decrease),” Pease explained. “It then went from $208,454,233 in 2020 to $317,940,995 in 2021 (a 52.52% increase).

“We find this increase unlikely in our community and therefore applied for a Request for Recalculation of Equalization Aid to the New Jersey Department of Education.”

In order to balance an already lean budget, the district may have to consider eliminating, downsizing or adjusting services, programs and personnel by:

  • Eliminating 19 positions across all departments
  • Replacing an SRO (School Resource Officer) with a Class 3 (Security and Safety Officer)
  • Moving sixth grade back to Charles Street School
  • Moving an administrator from Palmyra High School to Charles Street School

“We will continue to plan and prepare for the 2024-2025 school year to ensure that we maintain, and continue to improve, our delivery of high-quality instruction in the Palmyra school district,” Pease said.

The approval of the bond referendum by Palmyra residents is a highlight for this year, but Pease advised that it’s important to “be mindful that the proceeds from the bond referendum cannot be used to offset our reduction in state aid.”

“The bond referendum was specifically designed and approved to make improvements to our facilities,” he added, “therefore those funds cannot be used for anything other than what was advertised to the public.”

Over the last few weeks, Pease and district Business Administrator Jared Toscano have met or spoken with borough leaders, administrators from the New Jersey Association of School Business Administrators and state Sen. Troy Singleton to gain insight or understanding of the reason behind the substantial reduction in state aid.

“Sen. Singleton indicated the possibility of stabilization aid for districts that had a reduction in state aid,” Pease pointed out. “This would be a one-time revenue that would only support the 2024-2025 budget.”

The Palmyra board of education will hold a special session from 5:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. before its regular meeting on Wednesday, April 10, to offer important information and answer any questions and concerns about state funding. The meeting will be held at the Charles Street School gym.

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