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Addiego, Gopal Push Bill to Increase School Aid to Make Up for Gap in Federal Funding for Education of Children of Military Personnel

Legislation would provide property tax relief to seven Burlington County towns, Tinton Falls, Rockaway Twp. and Cape May City

Trenton – Senators Dawn Addiego and Vin Gopal are pushing legislation to provide increased state aid for school districts whose property taxpayers have had to shoulder the burden caused by past cuts in federal payments to local districts for the education of the children of active-duty military personnel.

“Our military personnel at Fort Dix, McGuire Air Force Base and other New Jersey installations are protecting our nation, and their children richly deserve the quality education and services they are receiving in our local school districts. But the burden of making up for the federal government’s failure to adequately fund their education should not fall on local property taxpayers,” said Senator Addiego (D-Burlington), prime sponsor of S-3948.

“This bill would fix the state funding formula to provide state aid to fill the gap between the lower per-pupil funding provided by the federal government and the higher amount paid by property taxpayers in ten municipalities, including five Burlington County towns in my legislative district that serve students from Joint Base McGuire/Dix/Lakehurst,” said Senator Addiego.

The Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission projects that the Addiego-Gopal bill would provide a state aid increase of $3,549,359 to Northern Burlington Regional (Chesterfield, Mansfield, North Hanover, Springfield); $1,507,615 to Pemberton Township (Pemberton Township, Pemberton Borough), and  $165,390 to Eastampton Township.

The bill would also provide $1,458,397 to Cape May City, which serves the Coast Guard Training Station; $776,515 to Rockaway Township, which serves Picatinny Arsenal; and $752,574 to Tinton Falls, which educates children from Naval Weapons Station Earle.

“This legislation will provide a long-overdue boost in state aid to Tinton Falls and other municipalities that have been unduly burdened by the failure of the federal government to provide the same support for the education of the children of military personnel that local taxpayers provide,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth), chair of the Senate Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, the co-prime sponsor.

“In Tinton Falls, local property taxpayers were paying $15,248 per pupil, compared to just $1,048 in assistance per military student from the federal government. That’s a 14-to-1 disparity,” Senator Gopal noted.

Tony Trongone, the New Jersey Commissioner for Military Connected Students who started working with Senators Addiego and Gopal to develop the legislation while serving as superintendent of schools in Pemberton Township, thanked the two senators for spearheading the effort, which is on a fast track in the Legislature.

S3948 is on the Senate Budget Committee agenda for a vote tomorrow, and the Assembly Appropriations Committee is scheduled to vote today on A5896, an identical Assembly bill sponsored by Senator Gopal’s 11th District colleagues, Assemblywoman Joann Downey and Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (both D-Monmouth).

“We are grateful that the Legislature is committed to supporting our military connected communities by providing school funding that will allow us to continue to meet the needs of the children of those who serve our country,” said Trongone, who is now serving as superintendent in Millville. “This school funding measure addresses many issues that are the essence of fairness.

“It mitigates the fiscal burden on local school districts in meeting the exceptional needs of our military impacted students in New Jersey. Moreover, it falls in line with school funding based on current student enrollment in school districts that have a significant population of military students. Lastly, it alleviates the burden on the local taxpayer in footing the costs of educating military impacted school students who live on federally owned, tax-exempt properties,” Trongone said.

While taxpayers from Chesterfield, Mansfield, North Hanover and Springfield were paying $12,121 per student for their children to attend Northern Burlington Regional High School, the federal government was providing just $5,051 in support in 2019, the last year for which statistics are available, Trongone noted.

Pemberton taxpayers were paying $3,547 per student, compared to $1,895 in federal support. In Eastampton, the $7,936 per pupil in local taxpayer support dwarfed the $112.74 military impact aid payment from the federal government.

Not all districts that serve children from military bases are underfunded. North Hanover and Lakehurst, for example, receive more federal funding per pupil than the amount provided by local taxpayers, and would not be affected by the legislation.

In addition to pushing for passage of S3948/A5896, Senators Addiego and Gopal have sponsored a budget resolution to include the increased funding for districts with underfunded military students in the upcoming FY2022 budget.