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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Decoding Your School District’s State Aid Profile

You can now view your school district’s State Aid Profile based on Governor Jon Corzine’s school spending and state aid program.

To help you understand Corzine’s plan and the State Aid Profile, we’ve created this post to guide you along using the Livingston school district as an example. Livingston is represented by Senator Dick Codey, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey and Assemblyman John McKeon.

First, an overview of Livingston’s school aid for next year. As you can see from the chart below, Livingston’s property tax relief is limited to special education, transportation and security aid. The school district won’t receive any state aid for education.

Click to Enlarge

Now, on to an overview of the School Aid Profile using the Livingston school district as an example.

School Aid Profile - Property Tax Relief

Click to Enlarge

Understanding The State Aid Profile

Wealth Summary - Your Fair Share Of School Costs

First, look at the last two lines in the third box, which is labeled Wealth Summary. Here you will see an amount for Local Fair Share and 2007-08 Tax.

Local Fair Share is an amount your distinct can afford to pay in school property taxes according to Corzine’s plan. The amount shown next to 2007-08 Tax is the amount of school property taxes paid in your district last year. The difference between Local Fair Share and 2007-08 Tax is the amount of school aid your district is entitled to under Corzine’s plan.

The following is Livingston’s Wealth Summary chart from the Aid Profile.

Livingston’s Local Fair Share is $16,484,961 more than the school taxes the district paid last year. Therefore, under Corzine’s plan, Livingston is not entitled to any state aid. However, the Governor has agreed to “sweeten” the deal for next year and provide some forms of state aid to districts with a Local Fair Share that’s greater than actual school property taxes paid.

Districts with a Local Fair Share figure greater than the property tax figure are vulnerable to state aid cuts in future years.

State Aid Summary – Your Share of Property Tax Relief

To see the total aid your district received last year and a breakdown of state aid your distinct will receive next year, look at the first box in the Aid Profile, labeled State Aid (K-12) Summary. The chart for Livingston is shown below:

The total shown under FY08 is the amount of state aid your school distinct received last year. School Aid for FY09 is broken by various aid categories: Equalization Aid, two lines for special education student aid (Spec Ed Cat and Exord), Transportation Aid, Security Aid and two lines for aid adjustments (Adjustment Aid and Education Adequacy Aid).

Equalization Aid – State Aid For Education

Equalization Aid is the amount of property tax relief your district will receive under Corzine’s plan for the cost of educating students. This amount comprises aid for all students, including low-income (“at-risk:”), limited English proficiency (LEP) and those who are both low-income and of limited English proficiency (Comb).

Education aid per student is equal to the amount of Equalization Aid divided by the projected 2008 enrollment for your distinct.

Livingston will not receive any Equalization Aid under Corzine’s plan based on the district’s student enrollment and Local Fair Share.

Enrollment Summary – The Students In Your School District

Look to the middle box of the Aid Profile, which is labeled Enrollment Summary, to see your district’s enrollment in 2000, 2007 and projected for 2008. This box also provides a breakdown of students receiving free and reduced price lunches (at-risk), of limited English proficiency (LEP) and students who are both low-income and of limited English proficiency (Comb) who are enrolled in your district.

Livingston’s Enrollment Summary chart from the Aid Profile is show below:

The Livingston school distinct has students enrolled in all three “special needs” categories, but the district will not receive any state aid for their education. State education aid does not “follow the child” under Corzine’s plan.

Special Education Aid

Your district’s special education property tax relief is the sum of categorical special education aid (Spec Ed Cat) and extraordinary special education aid (Exord) as shown on the Aid Profile.

Seventy-nine percent of Livingston’s school property tax relief comes from special education aid. The distinct is slated to receive a total of $3,918,063 for special education students next year.

Categorical Special Education Aid

The Enrollment Summary does not provide special education student enrollment figures. It’s unnecessary, because under Corzine’s plan, Categorical Special Education Aid is not based upon the actual number of students receiving special education in your district. The plan uses a formula to arrive at a hypothetical number of special education students for aid calculation - your district’s total student enrollment multiplied by 14.69%.

Categorical special education aid is $3,632.33 per special ed student, adjusted slightly up or down depending upon the cost of living in your county.

Livingston will receive $3,243,212 in categorical special education aid. That amount is based on $3,788.80 per special ed student multiplied by 856, the number of hypothetical special education students in the Livingston school district.

Extraordinary Special Education Aid

Extraordinary special education aid (Exord) is allocated based upon the actual education costs of specific students in your district. The Extraordinary aid your district will receive is equal to 75% of the special education costs above $40,000 for educating a student in-district and 75% of the costs over $55,000 for educating a student in an out-of-distinct placement.

For the Livingston, this means that the district will receive $3,788.80 in Categorical Special Education Aid for the first $40,000 the district spends for a student with extraordinary special education needs, plus 75% of the costs above $40,000 in Extraordinary Special Education Aid. That’s assuming the student can be accommodated within the local school system.

For students with special education needs requiring an out-of-district placement, Livingston will receive $3,788.80 in Categorical Special Education Aid for the first $55,000 the district spends for the student, plus 75% of the costs above $55,000.

Livingston is slated to receive a total of $674,851 in Extraordinary Special Education Aid.

Transportation Aid

The Aid Profile provides the transportation aid your district will receive without providing any explanation of how the aid was calculated. However, Corzine is proposing to update the formula in the future based upon recommendations of the new Executive County Superintendents.

Until then, Livingston is slated to receive $643,707 in Transportation aid for its 5,826 students, an average of $110.49 per student. Transportation aid represents 13 percent of the district’s school property tax relief.

Security Aid

This is a new category proposed in Corzine’s plan that will provide security aid on a per student basis. Your district will receive $450 in aid for each low-income (“at-risk”) student enrolled in your district and $70 each for all other students.

Livingston is slated to receive $425,774 in security aid, which represents 8.5 percent of the school aid the district will receive. Without this new aid category, Livingston would have actually have received less school aid than last year. This means the district lost aid in other categories under Corzine’s plan.

Adjustment Aid

The Adjustment Aid category is used for districts that would otherwise not receive a minimum aid increase of 2 percent next year under Corzine’s plan. If your district has an amount in this aid category, consider this as a warning from the Governor. According to Corzine’s plan, your school district is spending too much, not paying its local fair share in property taxes or both.

Education Adequacy Aid

Education Adequacy Aid is limited to those districts receiving aid in this category last year and meeting the following criteria for this year. Your district will be eligible again this year if your district: 1) is not spending an adequate amount per student and 2) is considered failing and/or overburdened by property taxes.

Corzine plans to phase out Education Adequacy Aid within three years.

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