WOOLWICH — During their meeting on Feb. 21, the Woolwich Township Committee passed a resolution requesting assistance from the State of New Jersey regarding the school funding issue faced by the Swedesboro/Woolwich and Kingsway Regional High School Districts.
School funding has been a hot topic for debate in the area because the districts have experienced unprecedented growth since 2000, and the funds have not matched that.
The resolution states that according to the 2010 Census, Woolwich Township’s population has increased by 238 percent since 2000, and has continued to grow since that time. The Swedesboro/Woolwich District enrollment is currently 1,774, and has risen by 5.16 percent in just over a year. The Kingsway District now has 2,700 students, an increase of more than 1,405 students over the past 15 years.
Meanwhile, New Jersey’s School Funding Reform Act has decreased funding by 29 percent per pupil.
In the resolution, Woolwich Township also calls on the School Boards of both districts to consider the burden the taxpayers have been carrying, and to use all means possible to reduce their taxes. Woolwich is asking Governor Chris Christie to only sign a budget that fully complies with the SFRA of 2008.
A copy of the Woolwich resolution is being sent to Christie, State Treasurer Andrew P. Sidamon-Eristoff, Acting Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf, Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, and Assemblymen John Burzichelli and Adam Taliaferro.
Deputy Mayor Frank Rizzi said the resolution was just what Woolwich was looking for in Trenton. Committeeman John Carleton agreed, calling it “well-written.”
Carleton added that Cerf has advised Kingsway that funding for the schools was likely to be flat for the next term. He warned that such a result would leave the school with about a $2 million budget deficit for 2017-18. Carleton expected to see school budget numbers in early to mid-March.
The Committeeman noted that Kingsway’s efforts to join a fair funding lawsuit had recently been rejected by the New Jersey Supreme Court, and the school’s next move was not yet clear.
Mayor Alan Schwager has said that he doesn’t want to wait for New Jersey to phase in funding. “Woolwich and its residents deserve and demand to be fully funded in the 2017-2018 state budget cycle,” Schwager stated in a letter.
“How ironic is it that 40 Senators, 80 Assemblymen and one Governor can come together in a matter of months to pass a $.23 gas tax, but fail year after year after year to properly fund the education of our children,” the mayor added.
Other resolutions saw the Committee authorize participation in the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse for the fiscal grant cycle of July 2017-June 2018. Also, an ordinance to exceed municipal budget appropriation limits and to establish a CAP Bank was introduced on its first reading.
In his Environmental report, Committeeman Dan Battisti said the Commission was aiming at two kayak events this year, and they were looking to make them more of an educational experience. In Finance, Rizzi reported that all budgets have come in to the CFO, and meetings would begin shortly.
Also, Schwager said 26 zoning permits were issued in January, and Committeeman Jordan Schlump listed trash and recycling numbers as even with 2016.
by Robert Holt