Gov. Jon Corzine today detailed $839 million in cuts and savings to help the state close a budget gap of nearly $1 billion. Corzine said he will ask schools to use up $260 million in surplus, wipe out the remaining $100 million in contributions to the state pension fund, and cut $479 million in other spending. At the same time, the state will pay for $350 million in other mid-year spending on programs such as Medicaid, senior property tax relief and tuition grants, and restore cuts to municipalities that he had announced earlier this month.
The cuts, which the governor ordered up in November, come as the state deals with a nearly $1 billion budget hole dug largely by the recession. The state has so far taken in $412 million less than expected in taxes, and ended last year with $162 million less than expected in the bank.
Frank Belluscio, a spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association, said it’s the first time there have been cuts in direct aid in the middle of a school year. Lower surplus funds makes schools more vulnerable, Belluscio said.
“The problem is that if you don’t have much surplus left, and your boiler breaks or a child that needs specialized services moves in to the district, you need to find a way to pay for that,” he said.
Assemblyman Joseph Malone (R-Burlington) said school aid was being removed unfairly.
“While I recognize that we can leave no stone unturned in this process, including aid to schools, I have concerns that the governor’s actions to take aid from only those districts operating with a surplus is tantamount to punishing those who have planned and budgeted efficiently,” he said in a statement. “Every government department must be examined for opportunities to reduce spending.” Star Ledger.