by Robert Holt
MICKLETON– — At their meeting on Feb. 23, the East Greenwich Township Committee talked about unfair funding in the local school systems. East Greenwich receives only 49 percent of school funding from New Jersey, while Kingsway Regional High School receives only 47 percent.
“I think it’s a disgrace,” remarked Committeeman Stephen Bottiglieri. “It’s time to stop shortchanging our future.” East Greenwich Mayor Dale Archer called it “a travesty.”
Archer pointed out that East Greenwich was underfunded in its grammar schools, and also in its middle schools. He added that New Jersey’s school unfunding average was 85 percent.
“If the state average is 85 percent, it seems obvious everyone should get 85 percent. Bottiglieri commented, “The Supreme Court says this Funding Formula is the state law you must follow, and the legislature says, “We’ll get around to it.”’
Archer noted that the East Greenwich Committee wrote to those legislators in August 2015 asking for their assistance to more equitably distribute state school funding. Bottiglieri urged East Greenwich residents to contact Assembly and Senate representatives about the unfunding.
“This is not a party affiliated argument,” Archer emphasized. “This is about fairness. We’ve learned to do more with less.” Bottiglieri pointed out that East Greenwich was second to last in New Jersey in school funding, and Kingsway was on the bottom.
In an executive session at the meeting, the Committee considered litigation against New Jersey in regards to violating that School Fair Funding Act.
They also talked about the upcoming Kingsway referendum. The Kingsway District wants to pass a nearly $12 million referendum in March to improve its athletic complex and add a new school bus garage.
Archer feels the Kingsway referendum will undermine East Greenwich’s position in Trenton. “I can only think we will be weakened by the perception that Kingsway is willing to borrow funds for its athletics programs while at the same time complaining of drastic budgetary shortfalls for its educational programs and facilities,” the East Greenwich mayor said. “It is simply not the time to prioritize athletics over education or being fair to the taxpayers.”
In ordinances, the Committee adopted an amendment to the Route 295 corridor redevelopment area after a public hearing. This move was to adopt a local businessman’s new distillery and brewery according to state codes.
“It is a microbrewery to be located in the Whiskey Mill District on Murphy Road,” Archer explained. “It is a new law for New Jersey.”
Also, an ordinance was approved that repealed and replaced the township’s vacant, abandoned and foreclosed properties laws. “We’re super excited about this.” Archer said. “We just signed a new shared service with the County.”
The Committee also introduced a refunding bond ordinance that would refund outstanding callable general obligation bonds from 2008. “Every seven years we look at our bonds’ interest rates,” explained Bottiglieri. “We will lower the interest rate on our outstanding debt.”
In callable bonds, the issuer can redeem them before they mature. “Over the remaining course of the debt we will save between $400,000 and $517,000,” the Committeeman continued. “This is very exciting.”
And the Committee announced that they had received two quotes on a new recording/sound system for the courtroom. They accepted a bid of $9,799.
“The sound system is over 14 years old,” Archer explained. “We’ve set aside funds for this. It is being endorsed by (Municipal Clerk) Sue Costill and our court clerk.”