Toms River Regional Schools is the second largest suburban district in the state and the biggest employer in the county. Despite the challenges of managing such a large organization, it has a history of fiscal responsibility, with one of the lowest per pupil and administrative costs in the state. It has become a leader in professional development, technology, computer science, and makerspaces. In the past five years, it has successfully applied for and won over $3 million in grants, in addition to hundreds of thousands in corporate sponsorships.
Such alternative revenue barely makes a dent in the total impact over the next five years of cuts. TRRSD has already weathered significant aid cuts in the past four years, absorbed new special services, busing, mandated programming, and medical costs, and have still to recover from $300 million in lost ratables due to Superstorm Sandy. In fact, by the NJDOE’s own calculations, the schools operate at $37 million under adequacy (meaning they think we should be spending more).
In 2018-2019, 68 certificated positions were eliminated along with 55 assistant coaching positions and across the board supply cuts. Over the course of four more years of state aid cuts, the total loss will be over $90 million. The impact on staff and programs will be catastrophic and could include the elimination of over 400 positions, expanding class sizes to 30-40 students; a return to half day or the elimination of kindergarten; and getting rid of non-mandated programs and services like athletics, band, musicals, robotics, courtesy busing, and more.
All who live in these communities are already feeling the emotional impact of lost staff and anticipated cuts to programs. People are moving or looking for work elsewhere. Good schools are the backbone of great towns and equate to quality of life. Town leaders are discussing the future of local businesses and real estate. Dismantling our schools will destroy the towns of Beachwood, Pine Beach, South Toms River, and Toms River, towns already struggling to recover financially and from other serious challenges like addiction and unemployment. Other districts may have fat to cut to weather a fiscal storm, but TRRSD has always operated lean. No combination of cuts, savings, or other actions can make up for this loss.