The West Windsor-Plainsboro school district will see an increase of more than $1.5 million in state aid for the 2011-’12 school year, state officials announced this month.
The new aid, announced by Governor Chris Christie on July 12, is part of the governor’s education allocation plan, which called for an initial increase of $250 million for all school districts, as well as an additional $450 million for Abbott districts and an additional $150 million for non-Abbot districts.
In 2010-’11, WW-P received $3.1 million in state aid. In the governor’s budget for 2011-’12, the district received $4.64 million, but the increase of $1,514,468 brings the total aid to $6.156 million. By comparison, the Princeton Regional district saw additional aid of $741,409.
According to Larry Shanok, the district’s assistant superintendent for finance, the district originally had $10.7 million in state aid in the 2009-’10 school year — less than half of the state aid called for under the state’s own funding formula. Then in the 2010-’11 year, the district’s state aid was slashed by 71 percent, decreasing to $3.1 million.
So what will the district do with the money? Shanok says there are a number of options.
“The state just came out with guidance on it, so everyone will be digesting that,” he said. “They gave districts a number of options and the conditions that had to be followed for the utilization of the money.”
Prior to any official guidance, the state Department of Education commissioner had indicated that the additional aid would be “a unique opportunity for providing tax relief,” said Shanok.
Subsequently, the official guidance was released. “Most of the choices relate to tax relief,” said Shanok.
The big question is which ones will districts choose, and in which fiscal year will the money be applied?
“They gave a whole bunch of conditions for immediate” relief, said Shanok, explaining that in order to apply the money toward the 2011-’12 school year, the district needed to get the approval of the commissioner, send out an advertisement at least 48 hours prior to taking action to do so, and notify the appropriate county officials — all by July 19, a deadline that has since passed.
Shanok said the district is still examining the other options, which include using the money for additional aid amount in the 2012-’13 fiscal year; or using it as tax relief for the 2013-’14 year.
Shanok said that in his own opinion, “in one form or another, it will go for tax relief, as seems to be suggested by the commissioner’s statement that this was a unique opportunity.”