District news conference Wednesday; Rally in Trenton postponed
As statewide news outlets have reported, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto announced a budget plan last week that will cut $3.3 million from Toms River Regional Schools, effective immediately and for each year beyond. If approved, the budget would be catastrophic to our students, families, and taxpayers.
The stated intent of reallocating state funding is to fairly compensate needier school districts, but the plan fails to recognize the ongoing needs of the largest suburban school district in the state.
The Toms River Regional School District includes communities most impacted by 2012's Superstorm Sandy. More than 10,000 homes were either lost or severely damaged, and many businesses have yet to return or be replaced. Out of more than $2.2 billion in lost rateables-- 50% of all state losses-- the township still has approximately $600 million yet to come back on the tax roles.
Prior to Sandy, in 2010-2011, state aid to the schools was cut by $9.8 million. The district currently receives $3.6 million less in state aid than in the 2009-10 school year, despite an increase in expenses each year. With this additional $3.3 million in cuts, Toms River will be operating with nearly $7 million less than it did seven budgets ago, negatively and exponentially impacting budgets moving forward.
For some districts this impact may be easily overcome, but Toms River Regional already operates $31 million under adequacy, based on the state’s expected expenditures formula. The district has the third lowest total per-pupil cost for districts with more than 3,500 students, in addition to having one of the lowest administrative costs per pupil. It continues to actively and successfully seek alternate revenue sources, including grants, corporate sponsorships, and partnerships to move the district forward.
Despite these financial challenges, independent organizations have lauded our fiscal responsibility and transparent reporting.
District leaders, board members, and local representatives have been visiting and communicating with Trenton over the past two years to educate state leaders about our community needs and lobby for the restoration of funds, to no avail. Therefore, as part of its official stance on the matter, Toms River Regional Schools respectfully implores Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Prieto to reconsider how state aid is allocated and how they determine a community's ability to pay. The dire circumstances that would result from this budget also warrant a more unified and visible response.
The Office of the Superintendent and members of our Board of Education hosted a press conference 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 21, on the steps of Toms River High School South . Local and statewide media from several outlets attended as well as parents, community members, legislators, and representatives from other affected districts.
Additionally, Toms River Regional Schools announced a plan to deploy a caravan of its buses filled with students, parents, staff, administrators, Board and community members to drive to Trenton this Thursday, June 22, in a united effort to make our voices heard regarding the injustice of this proposed budget. The WeAreTRschools rally was to take place the day after the official end of our school year, and our presence in Trenton would speak volumes about the commitment of our district and community, as well as the tremendously negative impact such a budget would have on our schools, Toms River taxpayers, and our district’s capacity to educate and provide necessary and exemplary services. The rally has been postponed pending further discussion with our community and coalition of schools and legislators.