Legislators call on Murphy to restore cuts to school budgets now that stimulus has passed

Oroho, Space and Wirths — in hard-hit Sussex County — asking for more funding

Soon after President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 billion stimulus into law, legislators in the state offered ways for Gov. Phil Murphy to spent some of the funds that soon will be headed to New Jersey.

State Sen. Steve Oroho and Assemblymen Parker Space and Hal Wirths (all R-Sparta) said schools that were going to see their spending cut in the governor’s proposed budget should be made whole with the $2.5 billion intended for schools that is coming.

Sen. Steve Oroho, from left, and Assemblymen Parker Space and Hal Wirths. (File photos)

Oroho, Space and Wirths said the additional money is crucial to schools and pointed to their legislative district, which stands to lose a total of $7 million under the governor’s proposed FY 2022 spending plan.

“This money from the feds should be more than enough to replace the state aid cuts that many districts face under the governor’s proposed budget,” Oroho said. “Now is certainly not the time to cut any school district, considering the many costly challenges of a year dealing with the pandemic and hybrid schooling.

“Plus, beleaguered residents shouldn’t be looking at the prospect of exorbitant property tax increases if the funding cuts go through, especially after such a trying year.”

Murphy’s proposed budget includes a $600 million increase in school funding, but the increase is not steady across the state. In fact, many districts are getting funding cut based on the formula the governor uses.

The biggest cut comes in Jersey City, with more than $70 million reduced from its $730 million budget. Toms River is being cut $8 million; Freehold Regional High School district is being cut $7 million.

In the 24th Legislative District — where Oroho, Space and Wirths are from — 30 of 38 school districts are losing aid in Murphy’s budget. The district has a combined loss of $7 million. That 5% reduction follows a $10.5 million loss the previous year. Since Murphy’s term in office, $25 million has been cut from District 24 schools, the three said.

“For some districts, the stimulus funds that will be directed specifically to schools will help temper the governor’s cuts, but too many of our schools will still be in the red,” Space said. “Our state is getting more than enough money to ensure no school will face steep cuts, which would result in likely staff layoffs and reduced services as well as higher property taxes. We can’t stand for that.”

The debate over school funding will play out in another way in the Legislature.

Earlier this week, a bill by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) — which will encourage and make it easier for districts to consolidate into K-12 districts — passed the Education Committee.

The bill has a long way to go, but it potentially could impact more than 275 school districts in the state. Read the story here.