Says in Newark "we’re paying 80 percent of the school budget from local property taxes."

Ronald Rice on Thursday, January 5th, 2012 in a state senate budget committee hearing


Ronald Rice claims Newark schools are funded largely by local property taxes

It’s a slogan colonists rallied behind in the 18th century to cast off British rule: "no taxation without representation." Now, state Sen. Ronald Rice is fighting a bill known as the Urban Hope Act on the same grounds.

The legislation -- which was passed the state Senate and Assembly on Monday night --  allows private entities to build and operate public schools in three cities. Camden, Jersey City and Newark were originally included in the bill, but last week Jersey City was removed and replaced with Trenton.

Rice argued in a senate budget hearing on Thursday that it did not make sense to remove Jersey City -- where "school board members have the ability to make a decision, yea or nay" -- and keep Newark  -- "where we have school board members that can't say nothing." The state has been in control of the Newark school district since 1995.

"We've been there 16 years, but yet we have elected school board members. We're paying taxes, we're paying 80 percent of the school budget from local property taxes," said Rice, a Democrat from Essex County.  "In the meanwhile, we're losing jobs, foreclosures, etcetera, and regardless of how much you minimize the risk with this private quote-unquote investor, ultimately it can come back and it will come back to haunt the local taxpayers."

Are Newark taxpayers footing 80 percent of the bill for the school district? A reader asked us to check out this claim and PolitiFact New Jersey found it’s far from the truth.

According to budget documents, local taxes account for 11 percent of the Newark Public Schools’ overall budget in the 2011-2012 fiscal year. State aid, grants and entitlements make up the largest portion of the district’s revenues, at nearly 80 percent. Federal aid and various other funding sources make up the rest of the budget.

Rice acknowledged that the state finances the bulk of the district’s budget, saying he meant to reference the dollar amount -- "about $80 million" or more -- not the percentage, of the budget funded by local taxpayers.

Of the district’s $970 million spending plan for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, local taxes account for more than $106 million. The state is funding more than $775 million through aid and grants.

Still, Rice argued in an interview Monday morning that if the Urban Hope Act passed, it would effectively impose "taxation without representation, because we have no voice to say ‘yea or nay’ on the project."

"If they pass the bill with Newark in it, it’s going to hurt us a long time," he said.

Our ruling

In a legislative hearing, Rice claimed that Newark funds "80 percent of the school budget from local property taxes."

Of a $970 million budget, more than $106 million, or about 11 percent, is raised from local taxes. State aid, grants and entitlements account for most of the budget, at $775 million. That’s nearly 80 percent.

We rate the statement False.

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