Response to Assemblywoman DeCroce

Posted by Mary Judge on 3/19/2019 2:40:00 PM

I would like to share with the Jefferson Township community a letter written by Ms. Zeno, Business Administrator/Board Secretary and me in response to an inquiry from Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce and shared with Senator Joseph Pennacchio and Assemblyman Jay Webber.  

Dear Assemblywoman DeCroce:

Thank you for taking an interest in the state aid our district received this year and what impact this will have on our students.

Before listing the numerous reductions our district needed to make this year, I would first like to point out our past fiscal accomplishments.  We have historically developed a tight budget that promotes the success of all our students. With minimal or no state aid increases for the last several years, our district has managed to implement the following among other improvements:

  • Use of a student data management system to analyze the performance of our students to make improvements in the educational process;
  • A 1:1 laptop program for students in grades 6-12;
  • Full-day kindergarten;
  • Makerspaces;
  • STEM electives;
  • Significant revisions to district curricula to align to standards and best practices;
  • Special education programs including an extensive transition program for our

grade 12 - age 21 students;

  • An increased offering of Advanced Placement courses;
  • Offering PSATs for all sophomores and juniors at no cost;
  • Enhancing overall district security by purchasing a visitor management system, adding cameras for buses and buildings, installing retention vestibules in some buildings, and hiring an additional hall monitor;
  • Phasing in our bus fleet to meet current standards such as three-point seat belts, external stop cameras, and internal security cameras and complying with new laws;
  • Improving the High School auditorium to include new flooring and air conditioning;
  • Various roofing projects; and
  • Boiler Replacements.

We were able to accomplish the above with flat aid while simultaneously accommodating increases in costs of healthcare, salary increases for staff members, increased cost of utilities, costly repairs for aging facilities, and increased number of ESL and special education students, a record number of student mental health referrals, and increased homebound instruction. It is unfair to be categorized as “overfunded” while promoting student success and implementing mandated programs with no additional aid for several years.  

With the almost $1.2 million reduction in state aid for the 19-20 school year, on top of the $554,620 reduction in the 18-19 school year, our district will be forced to take the following measures:

  • Elimination of instructional and support positions;
  • Removal of all facility improvement projects;
  • Reduction in already sparse supply accounts;
  • Reduction of staff professional development money;
  • Discontinue upgrades to student laptops, impacting overall technology device management program;
  • Postpone purchase of two buses, impacting overall fleet management program;
  • Realignment of central office and building support staff; and
  • Initiate tuition for our inclusive pre-school disabled program.

If our district continues to realize future budget cuts as outlined in Senate Bill 2, the impact to our district would be catastrophic.  We will be forced to reduce programs and staff, eliminate some athletic programs, reduce co-curricular activities, consider pay-to-play, reduce courtesy busing, and increase class size, among other cuts.

The Jefferson Board of Education is hopeful that as the ramification of these budget cuts become apparent to the communities across the State, the funding formula will be reexamined and adjusted to at least keep districts’ state aid flat.  

Should you require any additional information or would like to further discuss, please do not hesitate to contact us.