NJ Assoc. of School Administrators Director: Consolidation Will Not Always Produce Savings

October 31, 2014 | Education

Public school education costs taxpayers an estimated $63.5 million. It’s spread throughout 545 school districts; 144 of them have just one school; 131 have a full-time superintendent or principal or both, each earning an average of $121,000. Department of Education auditors recommend districts try to consolidate wherever costs can be cut while quality is improved. West Amwell, Stockton and Lambertville have just done that becoming the regional South Hunterdon School District but the New Jersey Association of School Administrators is concerned about consolidating schools. New Jersey Association of School Administrators Executive Director Dr. Richard Bozza told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that his concern with consolidation is that there’s an assumption that it would produce savings.

“Well we’re concerned that the study that’s required to really take a look at this hasn’t occurred,” said Bozza. “There’s an assumption that schools get together that there will be savings and that’s not necessarily the case. Many of the school districts have studied and found out that there’s often increases in cost.”

According to Bozza, study panels and conversations on consolidation began around the 1960s when Richard Hughes was governor and those studies showed the same issues. He said that when South Hunterdon began the consolidation process in 2008, they did it right because they looked at how they could consolidate and improve education. He said that South Hunterdon had been saving in administrative costs. He also said that it is important that people understand that a percentage of school budgets go to school administration.

Bozza said that school districts can share services and that there are some shared services between school districts and municipalities. He also said that there is a common purchasing program where school districts can buy natural gas and electricity service at great savings.

According to Bozza, consolidation can be looked at, but that he does not want the assumption that it would work without investigation.

“We want, not the assumption that it will work, that the studies take place to find out if it will work,” Bozza said. “We have to look at things like transportation, how will class sizes be like. Right now what we know is often time there are winners and losers and when I say that in regards to taxes, the wealthier communities often have to spend more in a regionalization they won’t vote for it and often times you lose state aid as well when you bring them together. So all those factors need to be looked at.”

Related: Former Gov. Whitman: Mergers Help Raise Level of Education