WOOLWICH TWP. – Despite the fact that Kingsway Regional’s 2017-18 Tentative Budget adopted on March 16 calls for the elimination of teachers, counselors, administrators, sports programs, and more, a tax increase will still be needed.
To close the $2.4 million deficit Lavender said that he has been forced to make difficult choices, but he stated that the district’s standard of excellence will not be compromised. Lavender stated that the following positions have been cut from the 2017-18 school budget: four administrators; 1 full time and 1 part-time teachers; two counselors; one athletic trainer; 5 full time and one part-time secretaries; three paraprofessionals; two custodians; one maintenance staff; and, one school resource officer.
In addition, the following programs have been cut: all middle school and freshmen sports; our Alternative High School (Twilight); the late bus; all PSAT testing for 9th – 11th graders; all out-of-district professional development; various equipment and capital improvement items; multiple co-curricular activities; and more.
The final approval of this budget will mean a tax increase of $82.17 in Woolwich Township for the average assessed home of $288,108; an increase of $3.62 in East Greenwich for the average assessed home of $270,944; an increase of $1.88 in South Harrison for the average assessed home of $321,471. Swedesboro will see a rate reduction of $45.83 for the average assessed home of $171,650.
Kingsway Superintendent James Lavender laid the blame for Kingsway’s revenue problem at the feet of lawmakers in Trenton, including the governor, education commissioner and the legislative branch.
“With each passing year, the deficit grows and, as a result we continually make moves to close the gap (i.e. shared service revenue offsets; fund balance used to supplant state aid). But these measures are not enough when state aid does not increase in proportion to enrollment growth. Some of you may have heard me talk about being pushed over the cliff if state aid doesn’t change. That cliff is here. And now that we are pushed over, the deficit will continue to grow wider,” explained Lavender.
According to Lavender, the Kingsway district is already the lowest spending 7-12/9-12 school district in the State of New Jersey and is understaffed and under resourced.
Kingsway’s resident enrollment growth has increased by 44 percent since the adoption of the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) in 2008, and the district has been relentless in its pursuit for appropriate and fair funding, helping to ignite a school funding fight. Lavender testified on March 22 before the Assembly Budget Committee on the State Budget stating that Kingsway is one of 100 underfunded school districts experience significant enrollment growth while 200 school districts statewide are held harmless despite large decreases in student enrollment while receiving 110 percent or more of the state aid they are entitled to receive.
Lavender stated that Kingsway receives just 43 percent of its full, uncapped SFRA funding.