EXCLUSIVE: Jackson Ballot Referendum Could Raise Property Taxes By Hundreds of Dollars

Amid a brutal budget crisis being faced by the Jackson School District, behind-the-scenes plans are underway for a ballot referendum to assist the district in closing a funding shortfall that is clobbering it, according to multiple Jackson BOE sources who spoke to Lakewood Alerts on condition of anonymity.

The district’s financial troubles stem from S2 – a New Jersey law passed several years ago that phases out funding for school districts with declining student bodies. With Jackson’s student population dropping by nearly 30% from its height of roughly 9,800 students, the district has seen about 10% of its state funding cut, accounting for millions of dollars less to spend.

To make matters worse, the district is also required to pay $710 in transportation aid for each private school student, and with 4,400 such students currently in Jackson, and at least 1,000 more expected next year, the costs are running into the millions of dollars.

However, while some officials have sought to blame the private school transportation funding as the source of the Jackson School District’s budget woes, several individuals noted to Lakewood Alerts that the transportation costs for private school students accounts for only about 2% of the district’s budget, whereas the district had about 10% of its budget ripped away due to state cuts.

“As much as people like talking about it, the duty to pay for private school students’ transportation expenses is not where the problem lies,” one person said.

To alleviate the budget crisis, the Jackson School District is now seriously considering a ballot referendum to allow it to raise property taxes above the maximum 2% annual hike allowed by law.

65% of property taxes in New Jersey go directly to local school districts to pay for their expenses, and officials see a budget referendum as necessary to bring in more revenue for the school district.

Such a referendum, if approved, is expected to raise the property tax on an average home in Jackson by some $600 a year.

Many inside the BOE are quietly unhappy with the proposal.

“If you want to see where our problem lies, take a look at our expenditures,” the official said. “Despite a declining student population and state cuts, we haven’t made a single significant cut to our expenditures.”

“We haven’t made any moves to consolidate schools, cut unneeded support and administrative staff, and on top of that, we just gave Superintendent Nicole Pormilli a $30,000 raise,” one person in the BOE said, asking that their name not be published due to fear of backlash.

“Regardless,” the official continued, “this is is a really bad idea. I don’t think this referendum would be approved by voters. If you take a look at Jackson’s demographics, it probably has very little chance of being approved.”

“It’s time to wake up, smell the coffee, and make the cuts we need. Trying to wriggle out of this by sticking it to residents is irresponsible.”

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