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Officials: School Funding, Structure Should Be Investigated

First-ever summit gets ball rolling, slowly.

The investigation of a school district reconfiguration and possible changes to the tax formula will be pursued after elected officials voted to move forward in seeking a change to the Western Morris region’s school structure.

Mayors, committeepersons, school board presidents and vice presidents, and superintendents–25 in total–from Washington Township, the Chesters and Mendhams came together on Tuesday night at Mendham High School for the first-ever education summit.

The marathon meeting, which lasted more than four hours and included nearly 100 audience members to start, was moderated by former education commissioner Dr. William Librera. After many members of the panel made their stance known on a variety of issues and heard from the public, the group voted by majority to look into the possibility of two separate kindergarten through 12 school districts: one serving Washington Township, with the other serving both Chesters and Mendhams.

Also being considered for purposes of reconfiguration is a possibility brought forth by Mendham Township resident Greg Quam during the meeting, which proposed Washington Township to have one K-12 district, keep both K-8 districts serving the Chesters and Mendhams, and regionalize those four municipalities for one high school, serving grades nine through 12.

The group also voted by majority to come up with a variation of models of tax allocation to see how it would affect all five municipalities. Variations on altering the formula to split between per pupil cost and property tax (which is the current setting) will be studied and considered.

Members of the panel grew concerned that all the work would lead to conducting a feasibility study, which would cost tens of thousands of dollars to the municipalities involved.

James Button, the Mendham Township representative to the West Morris Regional Board of Education, spoke to the panel and said that he met with both Governor Chris Christie and acting Education Commissioner Chris Serf recently. Button said that after explaining the region’s situation to them, Cerf said, repeatedly, that he would “take care of” a feasibility study, if it came to that.

The group did not set a date or setting for a follow up meeting, and Librera recommended that nothing be set until all information becomes available.

Joseph Keyes June 16, 2011 at 01:28 PM
The remaining 29.7% is obtained from: Income tax 13.8% State Lottery 5.3% Other tax 5.5% General fund 0.2% Other funding 0.3% Keeping fund allocation balanced is not going to be an easy task. I believe downsizing the number of school districts is a good start. On a state level, it really will take a lot of compromise and, as one commenter mentioned in the DR, putting legislators back in the wheelhouse. Poorer districts are not going away and can’t nor should they be ignored. If the state takes on education seriously and responsibly, and these ideas need to begin at the state level, new solutions can be crafted. The devil is in the details and I think it’s appropriate to begin examining those details right now.
cv June 16, 2011 at 01:34 PM
Nothing is ever going to change beacuse the chesters and the mendhams think we are white trash. They dont get the fact that their homes are double in assessed value. They think we dont pay any taxes here. They think they are supporting us .
anybodybutchristie June 16, 2011 at 02:10 PM
When I look at my tax bills (Federal income, state income, local property taxes) the smallest is my state income tax bill. We are NEVER going to get more from the State. Chris Christie has reneged on his promises . The disproportionate distribution of State income taxes to the Abbott districts is a battle I'll let you fight. Good luck with that! I am talking about REPLACING what we pay in SCHOOL PROPERTY TAXES with a SALES/CONSUMPTION TAX!
cv June 16, 2011 at 02:40 PM
Face it we are hated by the chesters and the mendhams a proposal would have to be made in a way where they will save tax dollars otherwise I don not believe they will ever deal.
GettheFacts July 21, 2011 at 07:46 PM
It's doubtful that any consolidation will save money and mad has articulated it fairly well, however there are other reasons. 1. Guide Alignment/Re-alignment - when a group of school districts consolidate or regionalize there individual salary guides align to the highest guide in the newly formed district. So if WT or any other district pay's their teacher lower amounts on their guide than other districts in the consolidated district their salaries and benefits will be adjusted to align to the highest paying district included in the consolidation (this is current law). However it would happen even if it wasn't the law. 2. Transportation costs - Transportations costs would increase substantially especially in districts which currently do not provide courtesy busing. 3. Asset redistribution and alignment. To create or disassemble a regional all BOE assets within each constituent community must be identified and a distribution methodology established, or all liabilities continue to be the reponsibility of the joining district. So there are a number of issues to be considered and all of the three listed above would greatly overshadow any potential savings of a consolidated district. By the way these are not identified in the context of a consolidation study. Also another point to remember, NJ has the 4th best education system in the state. The solution is revising the funding system, we are not getting what we pay for. Go to http://fairschoolfunding.com/

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