North Brunswick schools win big with $3.5 million in additional state aid

NORTH BRUNSWICK – The North Brunswick School District has received an additional $3.5 million in state aid under Gov. Phil Murphy’s revised funding plan for the 2018-19 school year.

On July 13, Murphy’s administration released new school funding distribution totals based on increased appropriations and revisions made to New Jersey’s school funding formula. In total, almost $8.5 billion will be disbursed to the state’s 577 school districts, including an additional $68 million to bring aid in balance for underfunded districts.

“A stronger, fairer New Jersey means making sure New Jersey’s schools are receiving the funds they need to advance academic excellence for our students,” Murphy said in a prepared statement. “After years of neglect, we are turning the page to bring a balanced approach to school aid by removing the growth cap on funding increases and finally beginning the process of fully implementing the state’s school funding formula established in 2008.”

Under Murphy’s initial proposal in March, the North Brunswick School District’s state aid package for the 2018-19 school year was expected to total $15.35 million. The amount of state aid the district received for 2017-18 was $14.62 million. The revised amount for the upcoming school year is $18.85 million, Superintendent of Schools Brian Zychowski said during a July 25 Board of Education meeting.

Of the $3.5 million in additional state aid being provided for 2018-19, $1 million will go to taxpayer relief ($500,000 will be put into the general fund and $500,000 will pay back debt service); $750,000 will be put toward hiring 10 new staff members (five math, one special education, two literacy, one music and one technician); $500,000 will be earmarked for increasing tuition and transportation costs due to charter school enrollment; $500,000 will go into the reserve account for maintenance and capital; $500,000 will assist with student services such as the Head Start kindergarten program, Middle School Alternative Program and University Behavioral Health partnership; and $200,000 will go toward transportation routes, according to Zychowski.

“Finally, we are starting to make some headway,” Zychowski said.

The district is continuing along its three-year strategic plan based on four pillars: student achievement, safe and caring schools, physical and fiscal operations, and engaging the community, Zychowski said.

Current priorities include facilitating high school career academies, digitized learning initiatives, a standardized elementary school report card and monitoring the sixth grade schedule, he said.

The focus is also on success for English Language Learners (ELL), as well as ensuring all students graduate high school within the four-year time frame. He said the district is usually in the 90 percent range for high school graduation, but with an increase in mobility, ELL students and special education students, the district is at risk of not meeting its goals.

Zychowski also said the Community Relations Committee is seeking to establish an all-encompassing District Hall of Fame.

“It’s a way of trying to connect our alums and bringing them back as closer to what we stand for,” he said, noting the motto of “True North,” a play off the compass direction, as in the way the district wants to lead children as well as itself.

School district administrators were not immediately able to provide a dollar amount in savings that property owners will realize for 2018-19 with the additional $1 million that is being put toward tax relief.

In related news, state aid for the South Brunswick School District remained exactly the same in the July 13 revision, $24.83 million, as initially provided to the district in March.

“The news surrounding the funding formula was quiet in South Brunswick. There is no change to what we were already told prior to putting the 2018-19 budget together. We were one of the districts that saw no change from original state figures provided back during the budget season,” Superintendent of Schools Scott Feder said.
Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@newspapermediagroup.com.