4 Key Takeaways from Newark Public Schools’ Proposed 2022-23 Budget

“Over the last several years, the district has made an aggressive effort to manage its budget, and we have been fortunate enough since Gov. [Phil] Murphy’s administration came in to receive additional state aid,” said Wilson. “Both of these directly benefit schools and academic programs.”

Here are the top-four big takeaways from Wilson’s presentation.

1. The tax levy is proposed to stay flat for the 2022-2023 fiscal year. 

Newark Public Schools is proposing to keep its tax rate flat, pending a “yes” vote from residents during next month’s school board elections.

Alongside a $120 million increase in state aid, the tax levy would leave the district with a projected general fund budget of $1,212,200,000 and a total budget of $1,227,000,000. 

Additionally, city homeowners could see a potential decrease in their taxes from Newark schools. In New Jersey, property taxes are made up of three components: school, municipal and county. In the last 11 years, the district has on average raised its local taxes by approximately 2.5%.

The district kept a flat tax levy for the 2021-22 school year as the city continued to rebound from the effects of the pandemic. Last year, a Newark homeowner with a property assessed value of $175,000 paid $1,960.35 in school taxes. If voters say “yes” to a flat tax levy for the 2022-23 school budget, homeowners with a property assessed value of $175,000 would pay $1,951.60 - a decrease of $8.75.

“It is important that our taxpayers understand the impact the levy has on their property taxes, and this year we will actually see a decrease in taxes,” said Wilson.

2. Newark schools receive massive bump in aid, but district remains below adequacy.

Newark Public Schools are slated to receive about $1 billion in state aid for the 2022-23 year - about a 13% increase from 2021-22 - through Gov. Murphy's funding plan for pre-K through 12 schools across the state.

District officials plan to allocate the monies, in conjunction with monies raised from the tax levy and other revenues, towards various areas. The areas include employee salaries, benefits, and school supports such as child study teams, transportation, facilities, and special education services.

Despite the district’s increase in state aid, Newark schools remain below adequacy according to the school funding formula. Adequacy is a spending target the state calculates for a district used to determine what the necessary funding level is to provide a “thorough and efficient education” to every pupil in that district. The state, which never fully funded the 2007 funding formula, is only now beginning to increase its share. 

For the Fiscal Year 2022-23, the state increased funding by 13.2%, yet Newark remains $87.7 million below adequacy and $51.8 million below the local fair share adequacy calculation, according to the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA).

“We are by far the most underfunded of school districts in New Jersey, according to the SFRA,” said Wilson. “If we took the act at its true value, Newark should be receiving approximately [$1.08 billion] in aid.”

3. Charter funding increased. 

The district’s proposed budget would send $342 million to city charter schools in 2022-23, a $42 million increase from the previous school year.

Wilson noted that the charter payment might exceed that number and would have to be addressed as the school year continues.

“To put all of the money in charters when we are not sure if that payment will be at its full amount would create undue stress on the district’s budget and require us to make unnecessary cuts,” said Wilson.

This increase comes off the heels of a fiscal year where the district saw its charter funding bump $18 million from 2019-2020. During last year’s budget meeting, the business administrator explained that the increase was due, in part, to multiple charter schools not meeting their projected enrollment numbers but still grew.

“Some [charters] will continue to have expansions for maybe another year or two, so that leads to an increase in charter costs,” she said.

4. The district is upping the ante on investment in schools.

More monies are expected to be allocated towards resources for faculty and students for the 2022-23 school year.

Newark schools will have 121 new teaching positions with a net increase of 222 total positions compared to the Fiscal Year 2021-22 budget. The uptick in new positions will account for about a $26 million increase in the budget compared to the Fiscal Year 2021-22 budget to cover employee salaries and benefits.

The district also budgeted $22.5 million more directly to schools compared to 2021-22, with an aim to better support students. Funding is planned to support a variety of key areas, including additional teachers, bilingual and English as a Second Language programming, and special education.

Monies were also allocated towards school repairs and renovations, including upgrades to the gymnasium at University High School and windows for East Side High School, an older school building that Wilson said has outlived its useful life.

“They are still buildings that are operating and functioning, so what we are doing is investing and ensuring that the current structure we have will continue to service our needs in some of our most overcrowded areas.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-03-27 02:58:37 -0700