Tuckerton Elementary ‘Not Going to Panic’ Over State Aid Loss

Aug 01, 2018

Tuckerton Elementary School will lose $28,300 in state aid for the upcoming year and $600,000 over the course of the next seven years – if nothing changes.

“We’re not going to panic. We’ll take it one year at a time. My gut tells me it’s going to change,” said Superintendent Janet Gangemi.

The revised state aid figure for the 2018-19 school year is $2,250,416, down from $2,278,716 for the last school year.

Gangemi said the reason for the decrease is declining enrollment. “In 2012 we were up to 338 and we are at 280 now,” she announced at the July 30 board of education meeting.

“Our special education numbers have also decreased,” she said. That is one category for state aid, and then there is transportation, security and school choice aid.

“When your population declines, your funding declines,” the superintendent said. “We’re losing 30 kids, but I can’t go to one classroom per grade. Unfortunately, enrollment declines don’t represent a decrease in our education costs.”

Gangemi said the board has a couple of options to mitigate the loss. “We can use our surplus funds and with board approval, we can take it from our maintenance reserve.”

Thankfully, she noted, the school has just completed an extensive building overhaul paid for through a referendum and is in good shape. “We have also upgraded most of our technology. It’s going to be a challenge, but the last thing is to do staff reductions. If I had to, I could, but that’s not in the best interest of the children. That would be the very last thing.”

The board did approve a measure that is required by its auditors to allow transfers between capital reserves and maintenance reserves to operating costs. The plan to utilize $28,300 from the maintenance reserve has to go to the state for approval.

“We have the ability to apply for more state aid, but I don’t think we would get it this year,” Gangemi said. “Toms River has lost $1 million and Brick $1.2 million. I don’t think our $28,000 rises to the same level of economic distress.”

Gangemi noted that the Little Egg Harbor district lost much more, $100,990, and Pinelands Regional is down $27,514. On the other hand, Eagleswood gained $27,619.

“When it goes to $100,000 a year, that’s a 4-cent increase on the tax rate. When we show that we can’t reduce our educational commitment, then we have a chance. So we’re in for a challenging few years, but we have time to plan for it.

“Of course, the state wants us to mitigate without impacting our programs or instruction, so it’s the old ‘Do more with less.’”

In other news, the board approved paying Tuckerton borough $10,000 for the use of a local police officer for a few hours each school day.

“We’ve been talking about it for quite some time. We used to have (the late) Officer Matt Caulfield and he used to greet the children as they got off the bus. He was also our DARE officer. It’s something we want for the children to see police officers as friendly resources,” said Gangemi. “I met with Tuckerton Borough Administrator Jenny Gleghorn and Police Chief Brian Olsen and they proposed to give us an hour in the morning and again an hour in the afternoon for the arrival and dismissal of the buses and for a presence in the school.”

— Pat Johnson


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