The has greatly benefited from Gov. Chris Christie's recent distribution of state funding for the 2012-2013 school year, state's largest expenditure for school aid in history.
According to a press release issued by the New Jersey Assembly Republicans, the district received the largest increase in funding in the state because Christie was able to apply a more accurate measure of student enrollment to state funding.
“Students and property taxpayers in the Freehold Regional School District finally have some relief from a formula that did not properly account for schools with extraordinary enrollment increases,” Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande said last week. “Governor Christie has added a dose of objectivity and fairness to the way we allocate the state’s education dollars so that the money truly does follow the child.”
Superintendent Charles Sampson explained that the additional funding the district received was due to a combination of changes made to state aid allocation, and not just a result of district enrollment increases, as the release indicated. Enrollment within the district has been relatively stable the past four or five years, according to the superintendent.
"The FRHSD received additional aid because we have high daily attendance, are currently $4.5 million dollars UNDER adequacy and have received little or no adjustment aid in the past," Sampson said.
Adequacy spending is the amount of money the state indicates the district should be spending, Sampson explained. With the current tentative budget, which was adopted last night, beneath $4.5 million in adequacy spending the district is garnering the benefits; the district has been below adequacy spending for the past several years, Sampson said.
According to the Assembly Republicans, enrollment in the district has increased by 25 percent in the past decade. Usually the state measured enrollment on Oct. 15 of every year, but this year the state changed their method of evaluation and decided to look at the schools' average daily attendance. The district's solid attendance record was, therefore, another factor in the funding formula which helped the district.
While the tentative budget was adopted so that it could be forwarded to the county superintendent for technical review, the budget will be reworked to include the additional state funding.
"The district will balance the instructional objectives for all students with our capital needs in order to bring a responsible budget to the community that is both under cap and under the state’s determination of adequacy. The increase in state aid has made this possible," Sampson said.
In response to bringing back district programs that have been previously cut due to budgetary restrictions, the superintendent said that the worthiness of every program and services is considered during each budgetary process and measured in relation to any prospective programs.
"We will be embarking on the first year of an ambitious Strategic Plan that will seek to prioritize the competing interests of a number of worthy programs," Sampson said. "We also have an obligation to maintain our infrastructure and must be sure to address long term capital needs. We realize that we cannot fund all worthwhile programs, our budget process is rigorous and detailed and we will continue to deploy our resources in a way that yields the highest return on the community’s investment."
The budget hearing will take place at the Board of Education meeting on Monday, March 26.