Stop State Aid Cuts for Hopatcong

Stop State Aid Cuts for Hopatcong

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Hopatcong Borough Schools started this petition

To Whom it May Concern,


As members of the Hopatcong Borough School District’s Board of Education we must voice our concerns with the hope that this letter will reach the eyes of someone in a position to help. We are currently working on a budget for what will be Year 4 of a 6-year period of State Aid cuts from the NJDOE wherein our district will ultimately lose 90% of its State funding – over $8.4 million. This coming year alone we will see a reduction of nearly $2M while Governor Murphy boasts the inclusion of over $660 million in additional funding for schools throughout the state. 


Over the past first three years of budget cuts, our district has made many difficult reductions while generating income through out-of-the-box thinking. We eliminated multiple administrative positions, consolidated our district from five buildings to four by selling an elementary school, sold a permanent easement of a cell-tower, automated processes throughout the district to improve efficiency, opted into a new insurance plan for our staff members to cut costs, and participated in new grant initiatives and shared service ventures to reduce costs in areas ranging from maintenance to electric usage. 


Entering Year 4, we have trimmed in-district spending and are proud of the work we have been able to do. Considering that we have had a 45% decline in enrollment from our height a decade ago, the concept of losing State aid would be understandable if it were a comparable cut. After our initial cuts these past few years we are now, unfortunately, beginning to scrape at the bone. As we look ahead to this coming school year, considering our collective bargaining agreements that impact about 80% of our budget and the historic rate of inflation that impacts nearly every aspect of our expenses in areas ranging from food to fuel, we would need to raise taxes on our community by nearly 12% just to keep our district at a level of status quo. As it is, we are only able to raise taxes up to the level of banked cap, which would be a 6% increase. Some might suggest that we raise the taxes to 6% to combat the state aid cuts and increased costs. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Our taxpayers are also struggling to stay afloat given the rising inflation and fuel prices. We simply cannot pass the burden on to the taxpayers when the real problem is that the state has gone too far with the aid reductions.  


Having previously met with members of the New Jersey Department of Education and various elected officials, we feel it is appropriate to now take our frustrations public. We want our schools to be the very best because our students and our taxpayers deserve it. We cannot raise taxes 6% because many members of our community would not be able to afford it. We cannot afford not to raise taxes because our schools will not survive. If we compromise to a 4% tax increase we will still need to cut 10 positions, leading to the loss of academic programs and the increase of class sizes. In the coming years we will need to cut veteran, tenured, staff members with nearly 20 years of experience in our district. We are very concerned that in Year 5 and Year 6 of these cuts we will no longer be able to provide our legal obligation of a thorough and efficient education.


We are open to any suggestions; we are open to any partnerships; we are open to any grants; we are open to any out-of-the-box ideas. But bottom line – we need help. We request that the NJDOE stop the state aid cuts to the Hopatcong Borough Schools immediately. If this is not possible we ask that the reductions phase out over a longer period of time allowing us to reach a more sustainable solution rather than being forced into mass layoffs.  We believe in investing in our district to provide a comprehensive education, especially now considering the impact COVID has had on our community. We need support to serve our students.

 

Sincerely,


Dr. Joseph S. Piccirillo, Superintendent & The Board of Education for the Hopatcong Borough Schools

 

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