Piscataway School Board Returns Almost $1 Million to Homeowners
Piscataway School Board Returns Almost $1 Million to Homeowners
Posted on 07/25/2017
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At its July 20, 2017 meeting, the Piscataway Board of Education voted unanimously to immediately return $995,236 to local homeowners in the form of tax relief, meaning that the average homeowner will see a $43.73 reduction in their school taxes for the coming year. The funds represent all of the increase that New Jersey recently granted to Piscataway.

Piscataway and some other school districts have received less state aid than they are entitled to by the State’s School Funding Reform Act. According to the funding formula, the Piscataway School District is entitled to over $37 million in state aid for its schools. For many years, the district has not received its fair share of state aid and, as a result, Piscataway taxpayers have paid a disproportionate share of their local taxes for schools, compared to many surrounding towns. 

Moreover, the district spends less per student than others, according to the New Jersey Taxpayers’ Guide of Education Spending.

Last February, Piscataway was notified it would receive $15,911,190 in state aid for the 2017-18 school year, or just 43 percent of its $37 million entitlement. Instead, when New Jersey adopted its FY 18 state budget, the district was allocated an additional $995,236, or 45 percent of its entitlement. 

The increase was part of a legislative effort to shift state aid from districts that are overfunded to districts that are underfunded. Several public hearings, attended by Piscataway school officials, were held this spring in both the NJ Senate and Assembly. 

“There was no question in the Board’s mind that the additional funding should be returned to taxpayers in the form of tax relief,” said William J. Irwin, President of the Board of Education. “We are grateful to local taxpayers for making up the State’s shortfall for so many years, but that is a burden they should not have to assume. The State should be giving Piscataway its fair share.

“Nevertheless, we appreciate that state officials and elected representatives have recognized this inequity among towns and school districts. We hope this shift towards fair funding continues in future state budgets.”

The tax relief provided to Piscataway taxpayers means that the average homeowner of a house assessed at $276,611 would see their school tax decreased from an additional $86.17 for the coming school year to $42.44 for the coming school year.

“Our school district has always been mindful of the burden placed on local homeowners,” said Teresa M. Rafferty, Superintendent of Schools, “and developed budgets that focus spending in the classroom, whether it be laptops, desks, security cameras, or instructional salaries. Our administrative costs, facility costs, and support services are all lower than the state average.”

Piscataway spends approximately $17,222 per student, significantly less than many New Jersey towns with similar demographics. At the same time, its students have brought distinction to the community:

Piscataway received the Grand Prize in the 2017 Magna Awards sponsored by the National School Boards Association for its Inspire character education program;
Piscataway received the 2016 School Leader Award from New Jersey School Boards Association for its Biomedical program that enables high school students to earn up to 14 credits at Rutgers University.
The high school Concert Band and Color Guard each received an Excellent rating; and the Wind and Jazz Ensembles both received Superior ratings in the nationwide 2017 Festivals of Music in Boston. 
Students in certain subject areas at Piscataway High School simultaneously earn college credit at Rutgers and Rider Universities, and Middlesex County College; this saves students college tuition and gives them a head start on their career paths. 
Sixth grade math students from across all three middle schools competed in the Math League, answering 35 tough questions in a timed 30-minute testing session. The overall high score was achieved by Madeline Wolfson of Schor Middle School. 

“There is no question that Piscataway does more with less but we continue to face challenges such as technology costs and the need for facility expansion and improvement,” said Ms. Rafferty. “We appreciate the support of our local taxpayers and encourage our legislative leaders to continue to focus on the State funding its fair share of our schools.”