UPDATE: Governor Christie’s executive order forcing school districts to use surplus money to make up for cuts in state aid is constitutional, a state appeals court panel said this morning.
Trying to plug a hole in this year’s budget, Christie ordered the $475 million freeze in school aid payments and told districts they could use their excess surplus instead.
“Significantly, the executor order does not require the transfer of surplus funds but allows such transfers when needed to meet current operating costs,” the appeals panel wrote in its decision.
Not only is the governor required to balance the state’s budget, the judges ruled, the state’s chief executive officer must “take action to protect the safety and welfare of the people of New Jersey in emergency situations,” the decision says, in part.
“There is constitutional and other statutory authority to support the [order].”
The judges concluded: “A school district may have sufficient resources without transferring excess surplus to support its current operating budget. If not, other reserve funds may be considered, and the district may review its budget for potential inefficiencies.”
The Perth Amboy school district brought the suit. However, the appeals judges said:
“On February 11, 2010, each district was notified by memorandum of the amount of its withholding and the amount of unanticipated surplus and reserve account balances on which the allocation was based. Perth Amboy was advised that, according to Department of Education (Department) records, the district had under-projected its fund balance by $417,945 and had excess surplus of $15,155,778 from the 2008-2009 school year that had not been appropriated for the 2009-2010 budget.
“This amount was reserved and intended for the 2010-2011 budget….Thus, it was determined that out of its total school aid of $124,050,815 and its remaining State aid payments of $42,341,448 for 2009-2010, State aid would be withheld from Perth Amboy in the amount of $15,260,039.”
FOR THE COMPLETE OPINION, CLICK HERE : Perth Amboy Board of Education v. Gov. Christopher Christie
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