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A bill that would start the process of creating K-12 regional and countywide school districts, leading to improved quality of education and much-needed cost savings for state taxpayers, was supported by NJBIA on Monday.
NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Christopher Emigholz said bill S-3488, is a good pathway to sustained savings for New Jersey. The legislation was released by the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee on Monday and is expected to be voted on by the full Senate as soon as Thursday.
“This incentive-based opportunity for districts to explore regionalization will help bring much more efficiencies to those districts and, ultimately, much-needed property tax savings,” Emigholz said. “For New Jersey to truly improve its fiscal health, reforms found in this bill and in other Path to Progress legislation need to be seriously approached and achieved.”
The bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), Sen. Vin Gopal (D-11) and Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-13), would:
- Establish criteria for state-funded regionalization studies.
- Increase flexibility on regionalization costs.
- Bar any regionalization that would have a segregate effect.
- Protect tenure and seniority.
- Provide significant financial incentives for districts losing state aid because of declining enrollment.
One of the cornerstones of the Path to Progress report is to reduce the number of school districts in the state, without sacrificing education quality.
Emigholz said education reform at the administrative level and shared service reform should be matched by efforts to restructure New Jersey’s pension and benefit system and to reform state and local government tax structures.
“New Jersey’s financial problems are deeply systemic,” Emigholz said. “Our finances and our outlier taxes will always be greatly challenged until we change how we raise, save and spend money.
“Because our high property taxes are a result of the high cost of education, it’s important and appropriate that bill S-3488 is given a chance to bring savings to New Jersey’s residents.”