Even as Gov. Phil Murphy touts a $1 billion increase in school aid in his new budget, dozens of school districts are facing dramatic cuts.

Days after the state released updated school aid figures, many school officials are still struggling to come to grips with the losses.

"This isn't a fiscal cliff; this is a fiscal apocalypse," said Toms River Regional Schools Superintendent Michael Citta.

Citta says they expected to lose some state aid, expecting perhaps a $2.8 million cut. Murphy's formula calls for a cut of $14.4 million, or 32%.

At first, Citta thought, "This must be a mistake." He is still struggling to process it, "At the moment we are trying to quantify the irreversible damage these cuts will do to our kids in our beloved school community."

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Toms River is not alone.

Dozens of school districts are losing at least 25% of their total state aid, leaving budget gaps that could be impossible to close without a sharp rise in property taxes and/or drastic cuts in staffing and programs.

At least eight districts in Monmouth and Ocean Counties are among the biggest losers in Murphy's budget, facing cuts of between 27% and 38%.

Toms River School Aid
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 That has prompted some state lawmakers to suggest it was done on purpose.

State Sen. James Holzapfel, R-Ocean, said the cuts were totally unnecessary. "There's absolutely no reason that schools in Ocean County or anywhere else should have their funding cut when the state is so flush with cash," Holzapfel said while referencing a multi-billion dollar budget surplus.

Republican lawmakers have suggested the cuts are politically motivated to punish GOP-leaning parts of the state.

While there are a significant number of districts in Republican districts that are losing considerable state aid, Democratic districts lost as well.

For example, the state is reducing aid to Jersey City by $51 million. Since the 2016-2017 school year, Jersey City has seen state education aid drop from $418 million to $133 million.

While school officials struggle to digest the latest figures, Murphy has been touring the state using words like "equitable" to tout his school aid figures.

Murphy on Education
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Murphy was at Montgomery Upper Middle School in Skillman to boast about increasing overall school aid by $1 billion.

"Investments in education represent investments in working families, school communities, and so much more," Murphy said.

But in some communities, just the opposite will be the reality, local school officials say.

Citta vowed in Toms River, "no stone will be left unturned as we work to resolve what is quite honestly a monumentally unrealistic reduction," but warned staff reductions and program cuts are likely.

20 biggest losers in 2024 proposed K-12 aid

Cape May Point — Cape May County
Proposed K-12 aid: $2,027 — Difference: -67%

Wildwood City — Cape May County
Proposed K-12 aid: $1,912,821 — Difference: -53%

Riverton — Burlington County
Proposed K-12 aid: $548,200 — Difference: -42%

Ocean Gate Boro — Ocean County
Proposed K-12 aid: $382,276 — Difference: -38%

Seaside Heights Boro — Ocean County
Proposed K-12 aid: $441,817 — Difference: -33%

Toms River Regional — Ocean County
Proposed K-12 aid: $30,978,802 — Difference: -32%

High Bridge Boro — Hunterdon County
Proposed K-12 aid: $750,671 — Difference: -32%

Knowlton Twp — Warren County
Proposed K-12 aid: $337,872 — Difference: -32%

Milford Boro — Hunterdon County
Proposed K-12 aid: $193,255 — Difference: -32%

North Warren Regional — Warren County
Proposed K-12 aid: $1,240,718 — Difference: -32%

Stafford Twp — Ocean County
Proposed K-12 aid: $5,300,798 — Difference: -31%

Colts Neck Twp — Monmouth County
Proposed K-12 aid: $1,835,151 — Difference: -30%

Washington Twp — Warren County
Proposed K-12 aid: $803,768 — Difference: -30%

Asbury Park City — Monmouth County
Proposed K-12 aid: $20,702,767 — Difference: -29%

Hopatcong — Sussex County
Proposed K-12 aid: $2,716,165 — Difference: -28%

Jersey City — Hudson County
Proposed K-12 aid: $133,637,556 — Difference: -28%

Washington Twp — Burlington County
Proposed K-12 aid: $147,522 — Difference: -28%

Lacey Twp — Ocean County
Proposed K-12 aid: $10,470,890 — Difference: -27%

Lakeland Regional — Passaic County
Proposed K-12 aid: $1,746,442 — Difference: -27%

Ocean Twp — Ocean County
Proposed K-12 aid: $1,748,949 — Difference: -27%

How much your school district gets under Murphy's proposed 2024 budget

Gov. Phil Murphy's porposed 2024 budget includes $1 billion in new spending for school funding including pre-K funding, pension and benefits, and an additional $832 million in K-12 aid, which is listed below by county and district.

Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at eric.scott@townsquaremedia.com

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