Maplewood Schools / Kids South Orange

UPDATE: South Orange-Maplewood District Reports 2020-21 State Aid Represents Nearly 20% Increase

On February 27, the State of New Jersey released the state aid numbers for school districts for the 2020-2021 school year. The news was good for South Orange-Maplewood, with the school district set to receive $882,621 — or 15.76% — more than it did for the 2019-20) school year, when the state provided a total of $6,482,938 in aid.

However, the district reports that the numbers are even better and represent a nearly 20% increase, due to additional funding for debt service, as well as preschool expansion. See the district’s explanation below.

The numbers nearly restore the district to the level of aid owed it per the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) framework that was abandoned under the Christie Administration as the state sought to close gaps in its budget starting in 2010. Aid to SOMSD was slashed by 80% in 2010-11.

According to a statement from the district (see full statement below), “These funds offset the District’s debt service payment, thereby, lowering the school tax impact (the estimated impact will be lower than 3.78% but greater than 2%). During the January and February 2020 public board meetings, it was announced that debt service payments for the District would increase from an estimated $4 million to $6 million as a result of the recent bond sale. This increase in state aid earmarked for debt service release will significantly reduce the tax impact of the District’s recently approved capital plan. “

SOMSD 2020-21 aid, per the State website:

The district sent the following statement in response to a request for comment from Village Green:

South Orange & Maplewood School District Receive Double-Digit Increase in State Funding

New Jersey state aid numbers for the 2020-21 school year have been announced. The South Orange & Maplewood Public School District will see an increase of close to 20% in state aid from last year.

“The district is receiving an additional $4,542,722, however, a majority of the funds are restricted for preschool expansion and debt service relief,” said District Business Administrator, Paul Roth.  The state increased funding for preschool expansion from $2,940,398 to $5,968,036. This represents an increase of $3,027,638. These funds can only be used to increase the number of preschool students the district serves.

Close to two years ago the district applied for and received a competitive state grant to expand its preschool services (in addition to Montrose, they are currently working with 3 local preschool partners). The increase of Pre-School expansion grant funding through the state will enable the District to provide access to high quality, tuition-free preschool programming for more children across the district. 

For debt service, the state increased aid from $372,546 to $1,005,009.  This represents an increase of $632,463. These funds offset the District’s debt service payment, thereby, lowering the school tax impact (the estimated impact will be lower than 3.78% but greater than 2%). During the January and February 2020 public board meetings, it was announced that debt service payments for the District would increase from an estimated $4 million to $6 million as a result of the recent bond sale. This increase in state aid earmarked for debt service release will significantly reduce the tax impact of the District’s recently approved capital plan. 

In July 2018, implemented changes to the state’s school funding formula significantly affected school budgets in NJ across the board.  As a result, close to 60% of the state’s school districts have been considered “underfunded” due to enrollment growth caps and because state aid allocations have not reflected student population growth.

The recent changes to the state funding formula for the 2020-21 school year, led to an additional increase in funds, which will impact the District’ operating budget.  The state expanded funding from $4,392,049 to $5,274,670, representing an increase of $882,621.

According to the Governor’s Office, overall, state aid would increase 3.8 over the 2019-20 school year under a plan that requires approval from the state Legislature. That number would be larger than the 2.43 percent increase Murphy proposed last year.  An additional $336.5 million in K-12 aid and $83 million for preschool in the governor’s budget plan marks an increase of over a billion dollars in state aid for schools since the beginning of the administration.

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