Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Funding for courtesy busing added as expense to district's budget deficit

By Mordechai Wincorn Tuesday, February 23, 2016

LAKEWOOD - Neither hopes of a deal that would secure funds for Lakewood’s courtesy busing for years to come nor fears of its imminent cancellation have been realized. Instead, the state has allowed for the service to continue for the remainder of the school year by adding funds to the district’s deficit.

The anti-climactic announcement that busing would continue uninterrupted led to several reports pondering where financing had been found, but school board member Isaac Zlatkine told Hamodia that no extra funds had been committed. Rather, state authorities have decided to allow for the expense, estimated at $2.5 million, to be added to the district’s budget deficit, currently at $12 million.

As reported by Hamodia last week, local officials have been engaged in negotiations with the state to secure additional funding in exchange for a greater contribution from the township. Ultimately this deal was not reached, but Trenton-appointed monitors allowed for services to continue. The decision honors a commitment made by the state’s Department of Education last summer to ensure the service for the year in exchange for a $1 million contribution from the township and adherence to a “tiered” pick-up and drop-off plan by mosdos.

“They [the state] backed down because of the liability,” said Zlatkine. “They realized that the township is not able to build sidewalks so fast, and that to just stop it in the middle of the year is dangerous.”

He also attributed the state’s reversal to “public outcry, especially from public school parents.”

Zlatkine added that the board had hired Nate Boxer, an expert in school financing, to seek longer-term solutions for Lakewood’s recurring financial problems. Local leaders and askanim blame the present financial crisis on the state’s funding freeze enacted in 2011, which prevents the amounts given each year from being adjusted to match increasing school populations.

“The state gave a little more this year, but everybody is still being shortchanged,” Zlatkine said. “Toms River now also has a $7 million deficit. The longer the freeze goes on, the more and more districts are going into the red.”

Officials admitted that the problem would resurface, possibly as soon as three months from now when New Jersey’s budget plans for the coming year are made official.

Michael Yaple, director of public information for the New Jersey DOE, echoed both reasoning and effects of the decision in a statement to Hamodia.

“Due to the fact that the township has demonstrated that they are not prepared to provide safe passage to school through deployment of crossing guards and sidewalk installation in a short time frame, and for the safety of the roughly 10,000 children involved, the state monitor has decided to allow the Board of Education’s resolution to continue busing through the remainder of the school year to stand,” he said.

“As previously disclosed by the state monitor, the district will end the year in a substantial deficit, half of which is caused by the unanticipated cost increase of courtesy busing. The cost of this deficit will need to be assumed by the Board of Education because, as previously stated, state funding is not available for courtesy busing.”

Residents were relieved, but disappointed by the nature of the solution.

“I’m definitely glad that the chaos that everybody was worried about is not going to happen, but it would be nice if all the experts working on this could find a way to stop this problem from cropping up every year,” said one Lakewood parent.


  1. A short lived bandaid as usual.

  2. The problem is that parents assume this always gets fixed. This time is d different. There us very litle chancr of courtesy bysing next year so parents better make their plans now.

  3. If a lack of funding for bussing can cause such uproar in lakewood , can you imagine what will happen when section 8 funding gets cut?
    Problem stems from feeling entitlemrnt to programs which are there only on a temporary basis but we tend to think of it as entitlement.

    1. No shaychus. Here we pay very high taxes and get nothing in return for our children a education. Yes we choose not to send to public school but if we would it'll cost us another few hundred million dollars. Look at the savings we bring all we ask for is to get back some money for busing. If section 8 drops rentals will drop and homes prices will be affordable not just locally but across the nation.

    2. Not necessarily. Basements are renting for 1100 and more in some cases and they arenot section 8 eligible. Do its the demand fir rentals tua5s fueling the higher rents ,not section 8. Maybe the higher rents for larger units might come down a little but thats it.

    3. Most people who are on section 8 dont want to leave it even if house prices drop for one simple reason . Brcause its FREE!

    4. Taxes are for schools not for bussing unless u live over the mileage zone. Not sure why the government must provide u with a free bus. Let the scjopls get their own buses anf problem solved

    5. what are scjopls? and how will that solve the anf problem?

    6. I'm not sure why the govt must provide u with free preschool or after school or any of the other optional expenses at the cost to the tax payer. Let the parents pay for these extras and problem solved.

      Stop making busing into the scapegoat.

    7. Who doesnt love free handouts?
      Sorry guys but the gravy train has come to a stop. Hopfully for good!

  4. Schools should buy their own buses.
    End of story!

    1. the public school does own its own busses now. that didn't help.

    2. What exactly didnt help? That you cant express yourself properly?

    3. it didn't help lower costs, which is what we're talking about.
      what's wrong with you? can't understand properly?

  5. How people can make comments about private schools should pay for their own bussing, and thst the state does not pay for courtesy bussing is beyond objective belief.

    The parents of these kids pay astronomical property taxes. If they would enroll in public school, it would cost the state in excess of $ 50 million dollars. Toms River, with 30% less students gets $40 million more than Lakewood in State aid.

    These are either people with extremely low intelligence, or anti-semites or both.

    Bob Songer is not representing the people that elected him, he needs to go.

  6. Courtesy bussing is a red herring. The cists of courtesy bussing has DROPPED over the last three years, while mandatory bussing has skyrocketed.

    The state has a vandetta against Lakewood. Meanwhile it is dumping millions more into the shrinking cesspools of Camden and Trenton.