NEW JERSEY – Governor Phil Murphy’s sign in front of the podium at his press conference said “fully funding our public schools.” However, despite the optics, schools are still underfunded, Assembly GOP Leader John DiMaio said.
Nearly 150 schools are under their formula-defined adequacy level of funding, and almost all that are above their adequacy level have only gotten there by overtaxing residents due to underfunding by the state. The state’s school funding formula won’t be fully funded until next year, but that is only the state’s share of aid – known as equalization aid, not the full adequacy level, DiMaio said.
Republicans have proposed that the state fund schools up to adequacy, and require lower property taxes equal to state aid increases to provide more equity in school funding because low-income school districts can’t afford the amount the formula, and Murphy, determines they should pay in property taxes, DiMaio said.
“The premise that schools are fully funded is an outright lie,” said DiMaio (R-Warren). “It’s also a lie to call it property tax relief, just after we learned that property taxes increased yet again in New Jersey. That’s not relief. The state could fully fund schools up to adequacy and allow property taxes to actually be lowered. Neither are a priority for the governor. But that’s what I propose and prioritize.”
New Jersey’s property taxes grew by 2.2% last year, above the 2% cap instituted over a decade ago. That is a $206 increase on the average tax bill, according to Department of Community Affairs’ data, roughly half from schools taxes. School taxes account for 52% of the average bill, but can be up to 81%, DiMaio said.
School property taxes have increased by nearly $1.9 billion since Murphy took office, about $500 on the average tax bill. DiMaio’s plan would provide over $620 in relief on the average bill.