Murphy unveils details of 4.3 percent increase in school aid
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday signed off on $8.5 billion in school funding for the state's nearly 600 school districts, boosting aid by more than 4 percent over last year.
The Democratic governor announced that the new district aid totals were available for the state's 577 districts in a statement.
"A stronger, fairer New Jersey means making sure that New Jersey's schools are receiving the funds they need to advance academic excellence for our students," the former Wall Street banker said.
The funding levels are not a surprise since Murphy and the Democrat-led Legislature agreed to the funding in the recently enacted $37.4 billion budget.
Still pending, though, is Murphy's action on legislation separate from the budget that addresses a lingering school aid issue in New Jersey: eliminating caps on enrollment that limit aid and phasing out over seven years some funding for districts that for years got amounts higher than a state formula called for.
Murphy has said he would sign that bill, but hasn't said when specifically.
The K-12 funding that Murphy unveiled is $351 million higher than in Republican Gov. Chris Christie's final year, and he cast the aid as New Jersey's "turning the page" from his predecessor. Christie had called for giving an equal amount of state aid per pupil across New Jersey, but that plan went nowhere in the Legislature.
Overall, Murphy's funding represents a 4.3 percent over last year. That's higher than the 3.5 percent increase he proposed earlier this year. The figure grew after he and lawmakers reached a new deal on spending.
There are swings in how much some schools will get, and while Murphy said most districts will see an increase, some are also slated to see less aid in the coming school year.
Bergen County schools will see an increase of about 18 percent, for instance, while Hunterdon County is in for a decrease of 2.6 percent. Of the state's 21 counties, four are expecting to see decreases. They are Cape May, Hunterdon, Ocean and Sussex. The average decrease is 1.7 percent.
Murphy and lawmakers paid for the budget's new spending, which higher transit aid, in part by raising taxes. Income taxes on people earning more than $5 million was increased from 8.97 percent to 10.75 percent and business tax rates on firms making more than $1 million will go up by an average of 2 points from 9 percent over the next four years.
The budget also included a number of smaller fee increases. Ride-sharing will now be taxed at 50 cents per ride or 25 cents on shared rides. The liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes will be taxed at 10 cents per milliliter, and lodging obtained through services like Airbnb will now be subject to the state sales tax of 6.625 percent.