$1,541,532

Additional State Aid Received by Chesterfield

Members of the CTEA, along with residents, show their support before Board Meeting | July 25th, 2018

CHESTERFIELD, NJ –

In April of 2017, Chesterfield Elementary was in trouble. Funded by New Jersey State Government at 9.5% of where it should be (based on a 2008 Corzine bill), and $500,000 in deficit, multiple programs and positions were eliminated.

Related: Instrumental, Library Cut at Chesterfield, 7 Total Positions Cut

Last week, Governor Phil Murphy, along with State Senate President Steve Sweeney brought about a law to put more money into the state’s education fund.

Chesterfield Elementary is now funded at 58% with an addition of $1,541,532. Now, the task turns from “what to cut”, to “how to spend it”.

Funded by the State Government
0%

Before Wednesday’s Chesterfield Board of Education Meeting, the Board released information on how it planned to spend the increase in funding on platforms like NextDoor and WhatsApp. The information released gave a detailed list of where the Board wanted the $1.5M to go, to be decided Wednesday.

Along with bringing in new staff (Instructional Coaches), moving part-time employees to full-time (second music teacher), reinstating positions that had been cut (Library Aide), and fixing broken furniture (lunch tables), the last item on the list spends $214,429 on a tax decrease to residents. Taxpayers living in the average assessed home of $390,496 would see an approximate $111 total, or $9.25 a month.

About 100 people attended Wednesday’s meeting, and almost every public comment expressed confusion as to why the $214,429 wasn’t being used in the school budget for the students. 2 public comments agreed with the Boards decision to give the money back to the taxpayers but recognized it is mostly a symbolic gesture.

We cannot afford to give that money away as tax relief this year.

-Board Member Amy Jablonski

After discussing regular business, it was time for the Board to vote on the use of the additional funds. Board Member Amy Jablonski (joined the board in 2017), did not agree with the budget item giving money back to the taxpayers. She noted that at all of the State Budget Hearings she attended along with parents, teachers, Board Members, and residents, she did not hear people asking for tax relief in their testimonies. “We cannot afford to give that money away as tax relief this year.” She recommended moving that money into a reserve since “we don’t know what is ahead.”

Jablonski made a formal motion to amend the budget, which failed.

INITIAL VOTE ON AMENDING THE BUDGET
ShahBondBrownHogganJablonski
NoNoNoYesYes

Board Member Dr. Terran Brown put forward a compromise. Dr. Brown suggested putting that money into a fund that wouldn’t be accessible until the 2019-2020 school year. Hearing new information, the audience protested, asking for another public comments section, which Jablonski made a successful motion for.

After hearing the public’s comments on the potential compromise, the Board voted again on Jablonski’s original motion: Move the $214,429 into the Maintenance Reserve for the upcoming 2018-2019 school budget. This time, the motion passed unanimously.

FINAL VOTE OF AMENDING THE BUDGET
ShahBondBrownHogganJablonski
YesYesYesYesYes

Jablonski spoke exclusively to WBNC NEWS after the meeting.

“If I had my druthers, we would spend [the additional funds] this year on our students… that to me was the obvious compromise to be had between tax relief and spending all of the money this year… We are a reflection of our community, and this fight for fair funding was one that our community undertook… It took hundreds of people… It’s important that we’re respectful of that and respectful of the needs and the wants of our community and balancing that with what our school district needs.”

Amy JablonskiChesterfield Twp School Board Member