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South Brunswick Schools Brace for Impact of Sequestration

District officials estimate approximately $160,000 in federal aid could be lost if spending cuts go into effect March 1.

The South Brunswick School District could be facing a significant cut in federal aid should $85 billion in "sequestration" spending cuts go into place on March 1.

New Jersey could lose nearly $30 million for education, with approximately $11.7 million in cuts to primary and secondary education, and about $17 million in cuts to special education programs, the White House said Sunday.

"My guess is that we have to be prepared for about $160,000 in cuts," said South Brunswick Superintendent Gary McCartney on Monday. "Our rule of thumb is that it will probably be about $80,000 (cut) for every $1 million of federal funds, and we're sitting at around $2 million (in federal funds)."

The total federal spending cuts would come in at about $1.2 trillion over the next nine years, according to the White House. With the debate expected to rage on Capital Hill through Friday, the possibility of decreased federal aid had been looming over districts throughout the state as they formulated spending plans for next year.

"We'd been watching this and the way it usually works is that they postpone it or find some way to kick the can down the road, so it will be interesting to see if it happens," Dr. McCartney said. "If it does, we have a commitment to kids with Title 1 and other support services that we'll have to figure out a way to fit into next year's budget."

Last year, the district adopted a $138 million spending plan that increased by 1.15 percent over 2011-12, but lowered the general fund tax levy by about $630,000 to $96.2 million. 

The potential loss of additional federal funding comes at a time when South Brunswick is still reeling from the impact of declining tax ratables.

Since 2007, the township has lost $600 million in ratables from successful tax appeals, while the ratio of assessed property value to market value dropped from about 80 percent to 47 percent in South Brunswick over the last decade.

If the federal spending cuts are put in place, one of the hardest hit areas could be programs that serve students with disabilities.

Dr. McCartney said that a significant amount of funding from federal aid to South Brunswick pays for out of district tuition costs for students with special needs, which could put an expense of about $100,000 back into the district's general fund budget.

"Every time you create a new expense in the general fund budget you say okay, taxes are limited in what you can raise, so what do you cut," he said.

With Gov. Chris Christie set to deliver his budget address today (Feb. 26), the district expects to find out by the end of the week what kind of state and federal aid will be coming to South Brunswick as work continues on next year's school budget.

"Obviously this week is a crucial week, as we find out Thursday what our state aid is," Dr. McCartney said. "We should find out on Friday whether we're getting whacked on the federal end. That will be the missing piece for the budget that we don't have yet, and then we'll be able to continue through the completion of the budget."

Concerned Citizen February 27, 2013 at 12:54 PM
roll? as in rock and roll?
Drediock May 03, 2013 at 01:40 PM
Thing is. Its not "their " (the federal governments) money to begin with. Going through the federal government only creates more middlemen to whom our tax money gets distributed. Which means considering this state contributes among the most to the federal pot even the federal money we get. We get far less of that money to use within the state then if we had just kept that money in state to begin with. That being said. Be it money from either the federal or local levels. Townships and school systems have to learn to live within the economic realities of the times. Used to be you got a public sector job the money wasnt great. but you had benefits and job security. They changed that to make salaries to be more competitive with the private sector so as to attract better people (its debatable if they accomplished this or not) Problem with that is.When you do that. you also have to make yourself subject to the economy at hand as you are now more susceptible to it due to fluctuation in tax revenue and public sector jobs are not as insulated against those fluctuations as they once were. To Govt workers I say Welcome to the real world
Scudagc May 03, 2013 at 01:52 PM
Tugwalla, Do you know what a school psychologist does? Your comment clearly indicates the worst type of ignorance. This is the ignorance not to discover or learn new information because of a fear that it might change your view. While the right screams that its mental health, not guns that are responsible for mass shootings, you propose cutting 11 mental health practitioners from schools. By cutting many of the positions you are proposing to cut, you are single handedlly increasing the number of special needs students that will require out of district placements. Psychologists, assistant principals and para professionals help maintain those with disabilities in district through thoughtful and meaningful intervention. School psychologists do not do therapy, they help identify and plan for students with special needs. Private insurance will not pay for that and it is a federally mandated role!
Scudagc May 03, 2013 at 01:55 PM
You are correct. School Psych's are federally mandated roles. Paraprofessionals, in some situations are mandated as well. They also serve a population that is extremely vulnerable and without these professionals, we would see a mass migration of students being sent to out of district schools for anywhere from 40k-120k a year. Building capacity within districts in the longterm will reduce costs.
Drediock May 04, 2013 at 12:12 PM
Could save some money by removing the police presence form schools. Really not needed even for fear of school shootings inasmuch as the chances of any particular K-12 school in the United States experiencing a shooting incident in any given year is approximately 1 in 53,925. I cant really think of a legitimate purpose for having them there.

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