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Talk about inflation! Lakewood Public Schools District just introduced its 2023-20224 budget which comes in at $264.4 million. In order to balance the books, the district—once again—is asking for a state loan of $93 million that it will never pay back.
To put this in context, this “loan” is just a few million below the Senate bill, S3732, signed by Gov. Murphy on Monday, that adds $102.7 million in one-time supplemental state school aid to 160 schools districts that collectively lost $157 million this year due to the School Finance Reform Act (SFRA), as well as their inability to raise taxes by more than 2% due to another law called S2.
Under the new bill, sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal, who represents some districts in South Jersey that saw cuts, districts can request supplemental aid equal to 66% of the difference between what they received in the current state budget and what they are scheduled to receive in the new one. They also have to show how they’ll cope fiscally next year because this is supposed to be a one-time-only deal.
Lakewood, by the way, isn’t on the list of districts that got their aid cut. In fact, it got a 7.7% increase of $1.9 million.
From the Asbury Park Press:
If approved at the public hearing scheduled for May 8, the board will be adding $93 million to their current debt of over $125 million in loans dating back to the 2014-15 school year when they borrowed $4.5 million. The district also borrowed $5.6 million in 2016-17; $8.5 million in 2017-18; $28.1 million in 2018-19; $36 million in 2019-20; $54.5 million in 2020-2021; and $24 million in 2022-23.
Earlier this month a State Appellate Court ruled that SFRA is unfair to Lakewood due to its unusual demographics. Currently fewer than 6,000 students attend district schools, almost all low-income and Hispanic. But next year Lakewood will pay almost $80 million in busing and special education costs for 45,000 ultra-Orthodox students who attend one of the city’s 130 private Jewish day schools.
In other news, Lakewood’s Business Administrator Robert Finger resigned just before the School Board meeting that included a public presentation of the budget.. This is the second time Finger has resigned.