In Letter to Governor, Senator Says West Milford and Jefferson Twp. Schools May Face Widespread Teacher Layoffs
Reacting to data showing that the proposed Fiscal Year 2022 State Budget would slash aid to at least two local school districts, Senator Joe Pennacchio today condemned the treatment in a letter to Governor Murphy (click here for PDF).
Deep cuts in school funding could lead to widespread teacher layoffs and the loss of educational resources for students, Sen. Joe Pennacchio in a letter to the Governor. (Pixabay)
According to documentation released by the State Department of Education, West Milford and Jefferson Township schools in Pennacchio’s 26th Legislative District will lose a total of more than $5 million in state aid.
“This is a bitter pill to swallow for the students and taxpayers in these two hard-hit school districts,” Pennacchio said. “These municipalities are handcuffed by Highlands Act rules that hinder growth, and the property tax cap that makes it impossible to make up for the lost state support. These cuts will inevitably result in higher taxes, widespread layoffs of teachers and staff, and the loss of educational resources for students. This is no way to educate the next generation.”
West Milford has lost more than $5 million (close to 40 percent) in state support in three years, while Murphy swiped more than $6 million (almost 35 percent) from Jefferson.
In his letter, Pennacchio said: “The Highlands’ restrictions have made these two towns virtual wards of the state. The Highlands Act was mandated by the state, but Trenton has never stepped up, acknowledged, and addressed the hardships it caused. Because of the Act, it is impossible for ratable growth to keep pace with the state’s reductions in school funding.”
The full text of the letter is below:
Dear Governor Murphy,
As a legislative representative of West Milford and Jefferson Township, I am deeply concerned about your Fiscal Year 2022 budget proposal, specifically the cuts in school funding aid to West Milford and Jefferson Township, two districts that are once again being short-changed by our state’s inadequate school funding formula.
Under your proposal, West Milford stands to lose nearly $2.5 million dollars. This is in addition to the $1,972,723 cut in last year’s budget, and the $950,066 cut in the FY20 budget. In total, West Milford will see a reduction in school aid of close to 40 percent! More than $5 million – over three years!
Similarly, Jefferson is set to lose $2,791,524 of school funding aide in the FY22 budget. This is on top of a $1,193,302 cut in FY20 and a $2,251,742 in FY21, bringing their three-year reduction to more than $6 million, or close to 35 percent over three years!
As you know, because of Highlands restrictions and the vitally important property tax cap, these towns have nowhere else to turn when their aid is cut like this, which will inevitably lead to widespread teacher layoffs, and a reduction in resources for our children.
The Highlands’ restrictions have made these two towns virtual wards of the state. The Highlands Act was mandated by the state, but Trenton has never stepped up, acknowledged, and addressed the hardships it caused. Because of the Act, it is impossible for ratable growth to keep pace with the state’s reductions in school funding.
The geographic size of West Milford and Jefferson Township makes school consolidation impractical. Children would be forced to spend hours each day in buses to reach their destinations.
A major flaw in the formula is the lack of acknowledgement and remediation for districts such as West Milford and Jefferson Township, whose ratable policies are controlled by the state.
I ask you, out of a sense of justice and fairness, to immediately address this issue, reinstate these draconian cuts, and work with the legislature to fix this inequitable formula.
Senator Joe Pennacchio