MICKLETON – In a continuing effort to help with the underfunding of the local school district, East Greenwich Township authorized becoming a member of the Fair Funding Action Committee at the town’s Committee meeting on March 13.
The FFA Committee started in 2012 as a local group of school administrators, Board of Education members and volunteers coming from the Kingsway Regional School districts to formalize and intensify lobbying efforts in Trenton to reallocate state aid to underfunded districts in New Jersey.
Kingsway is one of New Jersey’s fastest growing school districts, and has students from Woolwich and East Greenwich, two of the fastest growing municipalities in the state. School enrollment has increased, but state aid has not.
According to Kingsway’s web site, the school will receive only 43.3 percent of the state aid it is entitled for 2017 based on the state’s funding formula. Meanwhile, school districts like Washington Township where enrollment is falling will receive more than 140 percent of the state aid they are entitled through the state funding formula.
East Greenwich Mayor Dale Archer says Kingsway Regional High School and the East Greenwich school district are underfunded by nearly a combined $12 million. Other New Jersey schools receive more than 100 percent of their school funding, while their taxpayers pay less than their allotted share.
According to Archer, on the average an East Greenwich resident pays approximately $8,000 a year in taxes, but only $880, or 11 percent, goes to the township. Meanwhile, $1,920 (24 percent) is allocated to Gloucester County and $5,200 (65 percent) to the schools.
Upon the Committee adopting the resolution, Archer remarked, “We continue to generate momentum to assure adequate funds are given to our grammar schools and public schools.”
East Greenwich has already joined together with Woolwich, Swedesboro, and a number of other municipalities in a lawsuit to see New Jersey school aid reallocated in a fair and equitable manner.
In other news, the Committee had hoped to adopt its 2018 municipal budget on meeting night, but it had not yet been approved by the state. Archer pointed out that East Greenwich introduced their budget early in 2018, well ahead of most other districts in Gloucester County, but the measure was tabled for now.
Archer mentioned that the community still made a series of improvements last year without using money from the taxpayers. In 2017 East Greenwich built a pole barn for storage, and are adding another one to house rock salt. Sports parks saw improved lighting, and the town added Public Works, Fire Department, Construction and Police Department Vehicles.
Four police vehicles were added in 2017, and four more have been purchased in 2018, according to Deputy Mayor Jim Philbin. East Greenwich got a deal on eight cars for $20,000 apiece, saving nearly $18,000 on each, he noted.
“This is thinking outside the box while being cognizant of our budget,” Archer observed. “We looked at another opportunity than the state plan. We are completely rebuilding our police vehicle force.”
The mayor added that the Police Department and Public Works would each be gaining two full-time employees in 2018. Earlier in the evening, Archer had sworn in East Greenwich Police Officer Dan Abate on his promotion to Sergeant.
In other resolutions, the Committee adopted a shared service agreement between East Greenwich and Harrison Township. “This is for our fire department vehicle maintenance program,” explained Archer. “They have a great facility and good mechanical help. They are close to us, and it will save our vehicles from down time. Our fire chief went from town to town to get the best deal for our shared service agreement.”
Archer said great credit goes to the department heads in streamlining a budget. Committeeman Stephen Bottiglieri commented, “Department heads and employees are all buying in. Let’s make this a better township and a better place to live.”
One more resolution saw the Committee authorize the continuation of facility planning, designs and negotiations for the community’s new firehouse. Archer emphasized that the project was being funded by the sale of the Mount Royal Firehouse. The new firehouse is scheduled to be built at the Peaslee Annex on 21 E. Cohawkin Road in 2018.
by Robert Holt