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BUDGET: School districts see some aid restored, but still far less than two years ago

BUDGET: School districts see some aid restored, but still far less than two years ago

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Local school districts will be getting a little of what they lost in state aid restored next year, although all schools are still getting far less aid than they did two years ago.

The state Department of Education released district data late Wednesday on how an extra $219 million in 2011-12 operating aid for school districts will be distributed. Locally, most districts will see their state aid increase between 1 percent and 4 percent for next year. But a few districts that lost the most are getting proportionally more funds restored. 

“It is better news,” Hamilton Township Superintendent Michelle Cappelluti said of the aid allocation. 

The district will get $405,564 in aid restored, a 4 percent increase from last year. But the district is still almost $2 million below the $23 million in state aid received in 2009-10. Still, Cappelluti hope the additional aid, plus almost $750,000 in federal stimulus funds, will keep the district from having to repeat the drastic cuts of last year. 

“Last year we made painful cuts,” she said. “This year will not be as painful as it could have been.”

Among the districts getting the most back this year is Margate, which lost more than 70 percent of its state aid this year but will see an increase of more than 50 percent for next year. Ocean City lost almost 90 percent of its state aid for 2010-11, so even though its aid for 2011-12 will more than double, the district is still $1.5 million below where it was in 2009-10.

Beach Haven in Ocean County, which lost all $73,000 of its state aid this year, will get $15,186 back for 2010-11. Southern Regional, which lost $2.6 million this year, will get $523,544 back for next year. 

All of Cumberland County’s school districts got aid increases of between 1 percent and 3 percent, but for some of the larger urban districts, the dollar amounts are still sizeable because they get so much aid. Bridgeton will get $711,566 in aid restored, but is still almost $12 million below the $73 million it received two years ago. Vineland will get almost $1.7 million in aid restored but is still more than $25 million below the $156 million in aid the district received in 2009-10. 

The data was not sent to the districts until late Wednesday afternoon, and many school officials were just starting to review it. Districts have until March 4 to get preliminary budgets to the county for review. Local school boards must present a final budget by March 22, followed by a public hearing. Voters get their say April 27.

Federal stimulus funds received last September are likely to play a major role in budgets for next year. The state Department of Education had advised districts to save their share of the $268 million in Education Jobs Fund allocations for 2011-12, and since most districts already had finalized their budgets, many did put that money in reserve.

Teachers and staff in Millville agreed to a wage freeze this year. Assistant Superintendent for Business Bryce Kell said their $2.2 million in reserved federal jobs money likely will be enough to cover the raises due for 2011-12 without having to lay off any employees. The restored $862,253 in state aid will also help make the budget process less painful, although the district is still $12.3 million below its 2009-10 state aid.

“We always have a cut list prepared in case we need it,” Kell said. “We’re still putting the budget together, but the extra aid this year will help.”

The state aid numbers released Wednesday did not include preschool funding. In a news release issued with the aid, state DOE officials said only that the total preschool appropriation for next year will not be reduced from the current spending level, which according to state data is about $613 million. 

Cappelluti said Hamilton’s preschool allocation was reduced but they still received enough to maintain half-day preschool next year.

“It’s an important program and it really helps the children,” she said. 

Contact Diane D’Amico:


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