Senator Jean Stanfield, Assemblyman Brandon Umba, and Assemblyman Michael Torrissi admonished Governor Phil Murphy for another state budget that ignores the concerns of South Jersey.
District 8 lawmakers admonished Gov. Phil Murphy for another state budget that ignores the concerns of South Jersey. (Pixabay)
The 8th District legislators honed in on the continuation of funding cuts in rural and suburban schools in South Jersey and cuts to an open space funding program that directly affects Pineland town taxpayers.
“Sadly, this is what South Jersey has come to expect during the yearly budget process, but it’s not how it has to continue,” said Stanfield. “Last year, we fought to successfully restore Pinelands funding, and it looks like we have to start that fight all over again this year. But that’s what we’re here for.”
The Pinelands municipal pilot program is a funding program the state has continuously pilfered to fund its general budget. The program provides funding to municipalities that conserve open space in the Pine Barrens. When the state created the Pinelands Protection Act, it deemed a majority of the land undevelopable making it so towns would no longer have ratables to keep taxes low. In exchange, New Jersey created a dedicated fund to pay the towns back.
The funding was partially restored in last year’s budget, after years of advocacy, but Governor Murphy’s proposed 2023 budget cuts it by 35 percent.
“In a year when New Jersey has received billions of dollars in federal funding and billions in added revenue, it’s a cruel punch to the gut to people in the Pinelands to slash the one funding source that keeps their property taxes stable,” said Torrissi. “On top of that, many of the towns that are affected by this, and other towns in the 8th District, continue to see their school funding aid cut by the state.”
The S2 school funding bill that passed through the legislature in 2018 has led to sharp funding cuts that will persist every year for seven years in many 8th Legislative school districts.
“For four years, our schools have been begging for the funding decreases to stop or pause or at least slow down. We’ve seen staffing cuts, increased classroom sizes and program cuts ever since these changes were passed,” Umba said.
“The Governor and legislature can’t say they’re serious about educating our children when there’s billions of dollars entering the state’s coffers and we’re still committing draconian cuts to schools. Schools in my district, like Evesham and Pemberton, are losing millions of dollars every year. Pausing their funding cuts needs to be a top priority in this year’s budget,” he continued.
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