Hurricane Sandy’s Potential Toll on School Funding

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My post this week at WHYY’s Newsworks is called “Hurricane Sandy’s Toll on School Funding May Be a New Disaster on the Horizen.” (If I was clairvoyant I might have quoted from today’s front page story of the New York Times, “Post Storm Cost May Force Many from Coast Life.”)

New Jersey is just coming to terms with the damage inflicted by Hurricane Sandy. Gov. Christie announced this week that costs for rebuilding damaged properties, infrastructure, and shore lines will come in somewhere around the neighborhood of nearly $37 billion, much of that funded, hopefully, through FEMA.

But that price tag doesn’t account for the long-term sustainability of storm-ravaged towns, particularly the potential reduction in ratables, or the assessment of the value of real estate. During a conference call among Monmouth County officials, Monmouth Beach Mayor Susan Howard, according to the Star-Ledger, “expressed concern about how this loss of ratables would impact the ability of municipalities to function.’ This is going to be devastating to running our town,’ Howard said to the officials.”

And that brings us to schools…what happens when a natural disaster threatens that tax base? While we’re all eager to immediately rebuild, maybe it’s wise to pause for a moment and consider Sandy’s impact on three issues that potentially affect school funding, particularly in wealthier towns: the strength of local economies in the wake of the storm, changes in school enrollment, and variables affecting the available tax base to fund local school districts…

Read the rest here.

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