Community Groups Rallying to March on Trenton December 10

Funding FAQs

NJ’s current school funding formula dates back to 2008. It considers property wealth and enrollment, plus other calculations the NJDOE has not fully revealed. In 2018, a Bill known as S-2 reinterpreted the formula to redistribute funds among districts based on recent changes in enrollment. About two-thirds of districts benefited, at the expense of the rest.

One key issue is that the state does not consider factors such as a district's spending history, funding history, cost per pupil, most special education costs, and transportation, nor does it accurately measure community wealth-- all impacts that, if considered, would trend positively for our district and others. We have asked the NJDOE to look at how many towns inaccurately report their wealth due to PILOTs and delaying property re-evaluations, and to disclose how it allocated $6.5 billion in Equalization Aid last year. So far there has been no reply on these important issues. Our most important demand is that the formula be examined and fixed openly to the public.

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. 

Before Bill S-2 was passed, as early as 2015, Superintendent Healy and Business Administrator Doering communicated with the Commissioner of Education and Senate leaders, met with local leaders, consulted legal counsel, and wrote and presented dozens of documents explaining the inherent flaws in the funding process.

With the passage of S-2 and the affected districts announced in July 2018, Toms River Regional’s campaign went full throttle with press conferences, news releases, videos, and partnerships with other school districts, organizations, and legislators. The district co-founded SOS and joined voices and action with more than 80 other districts. On March 5, 2019, thousands of students, teachers, parents, administrators, and Board members, most of them from Toms River Regional, arrived in Trenton by the busload as Governor Murphy delivered his annual budget address. Dozens of students, teachers, and administrators followed up with testimony at Senate and Assembly budget hearings in late March, depositing over 30,000 letters from students, parents, and teachers on legislators’ desks.

In August 2019, our Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution condemning the funding process and beginning the application for emergency aid, which has yet to be responded to. It worked to bring organizations like the NJ School Boards Association to join the battle. Administrators and Board members continue to meet with political leaders to make sure Trenton hears our concerns and understand the impact of their decisions. Parent petitions, letters, and social media campaigns continue to add to the fight. And press coverage on the issue is increasingly supportive (see below). 

The stark reality today is, facing a $5.3 million budget cut in 2020-2021, another $7 million the following year, for a 6-year total of $90 million, there is no fix or cost saving that will allow us to dig ourselves out. Without the restoration of state funding this year and every year moving forward, our district will be gutted. We have sent many invitations in the hope that Governor Murphy, Commissioner of Education Repollet, or Senate President Sweeney will meet and agree to work with Toms River Regional Schools for the good of all NJ students.

Partners in our efforts increase weekly, with letters to the state from TR Chief of Police Mitch Little and County Prosecutor Brad Billheimer explaining how the loss of extracurricular programs can lead to delinquency.

The district is currently one of several pursuing a lawsuit against the NJDOE. And in late November, 10th district legislators introduced bill A-6029, requiring the DOE to release the data and software program used to calculate school districts’ adequacy budgets, equalization aid, and local shares, as well as the details of any adjustments made when the calculated local share exceeds the adequacy budget for every such district in the State.

The week of December 2, Senate President Sweeney introduced a bill to raise the tax cap to 4%, which sidesteps the funding formula debacle and shifts the burden to middle class taxpayers.

Late Friday, December 6, the NJDOE finally responded to our request for $4.4 in emergency aid-- offering one fifth of that amount. Read the district's response.

Public education and rallying continue, through messages to families and discussions at public board meetings. The largest protest yet, organized by parent groups, staff, and students, took place on the steps of Governor Murphy's office on December 10, 2019. Dozens of news crews were on the scene. Predictably, Murphy responded that he is fairly funding schools-- to which we say, prove it!

Funding Crisis In the News