Gov. Phil Murphy signed two bills designed to help school districts facing huge cuts due to decreases in state funding.

Over 140 districts have prepared budgets that cut programs and staffing to what Toms River Regional School District Superintendent Michael Citta called "rock bottom" levels. His district is looking at cutting 368 positions and increasing class size.

Parents at the Washington School District in Gloucester County blasted the Board of Education at Monday's meeting for proposing a budget that cuts 100 positions, according to 6 ABC Action News coverage of the meeting. Superintendent Eric Hibbs told the meeting that staff cuts were unavoidable.

Now, these school districts may receive some help.

One bill signed by Murphy creates a $44.7 million Stabilized School Budget Aid Grant Program allowing the state Department of Education to provide grants equal to 45% of a school district’s state school aid reduction for the 2024-25 school year.

It also allows certain districts experiencing reductions in state aid to request increases in their adjusted property tax levies above the 2% cap established under current law.

"With this legislation, we are giving local school districts critical support during trying times, as difficult financial realities muddy the already complex process of adopting a balanced budget. I am pleased to provide relief to school districts facing reductions in aid," Murphy said in a statement.

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Toms River School District Superintendent Michael Citta
Toms River School District Superintendent Michael Citta

Extension to submit budget

The other bill signed by Murphy gives districts experiencing a cut in aid five extra days to submit their budgets. The clock starts ticking once the Fiscal Year 2025 appropriations act is approved.

“As the Legislature seeks to identify additional aid for these districts through the annual budget process, it is only fair that we provide additional time for them to submit their budgets, so they can be finalized with complete information," state Sen. James Beach, D-Camden, said in a statement.

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