The State of New Jersey has adopted a plan to reduce Toms River Regional School District’s state funding cumulatively of nearly $100 million over the seven-year life of Senate Bill S-2, of which we are entering the third year. In essence, S-2 reflects the state’s belief that the taxpayers of Toms River Regional School District are currently undertaxed by approximately $56 million, and that the state will no longer support communities that are not paying their so called “Local Fair Share” – an arbitrary calculation that we continue to challenge. Even if tax levy increases were maximized under the state-imposed cap, S-2 will generate annual budget deficits that will require significant cuts to the programs and services that have garnered Toms River Regional School District the distinction of being arguably one of the most efficiently-operating model programs in New Jersey.
The impact of a revenue loss of this magnitude is nothing short of catastrophic, and over the next few years, considerable and irreversible damage will occur. The effects of yearly reductions in– or wholesale elimination of– programs and services essential to a child’s well-rounded education are obviously and seriously detrimental. Such reductions have, in fact, already begun and at the start of the 2020-21 school year will escalate. If an immediate halt in the state aid reductions is not implemented, our programs, services, staffing, student supports, academic offerings, athletic and extracurricular opportunities, busing and full-day kindergarten will be eliminated at some point over the remaining five-year life of S-2.
This year (2019-20), Toms River Regional School District’s state aid was reduced by $2.8 million; next year (2020-21) we will lose between $4.3 and $4.5 million, and $5.3 to $5.5 million the following year. If this unfortunate timeline of cuts is fully realized, the damage will indeed be irreparable. Even the unenviable action of raising taxes will never be able to close that gap.
This petition is a demand that NJ leaders immediately halt these cuts, and designate the time necessary to fully address the critically-flawed formula on which S2 is based so that school aid is distributed fairly to all districts. Regardless of the intentions of this bill, it’s clear that it’s done more harm than good. It’s both practical and necessary to reassess the impact of this bill before that harm becomes irreparable.
This petition is an acknowledgement that five years of relentless work from our district leaders– who foresaw the flaws in the funding formula, provided specific and indisputable details through multiple communications and meetings, offered public testimony to both the Senate and Assembly budget committees on this issue, and helped lead multiple protests in Trenton— has gone ignored.
This petition is an admission that we can no longer sustain these cuts and continue to provide the efficient, comprehensive education we are entrusted and required to deliver.
This petition is an urgent call to action, one which requires the investment and engagement of our entire school community. Please sign it. The future of Toms River, along with the futures of hundreds of thousands of New Jersey students, is at stake.