A component of the 2019 Pathway to Progress introduced by former Senate President Steve Sweeney recommended that two counties pilot a unified county school district configuration to improve educational services and reduce tax payer burden. Salem County, with a population of 64,000, was a natural candidate for such a possibility. We are smaller than Cherry Hill (Camden County), comparable to Gloucester Township (Camden County), and a bit larger than Vineland (Cumberland County). Also, Salem County has a history of shared services among its school districts and municipalities, which makes such a proposal more viable.
After conducting separate meetings with the county mayors and school board presidents, it was decided to conduct a feasibility study to outline the advantages and concerns of a unified county school community. The County Commissioners were charged with the responsibility of the feasibility study, and called upon Salem Community College, for assistance. In conjunction with the County, we assembled, solicited, and awarded the Request for Proposal (RFP) for a Feasibility Study to Unify Salem County School Districts. The project was financed by a State grant.
Porzio, Bromberg & Newman, PC of Morristown were awarded the contract for the Feasibility Study. The firm worked with recognized experts in the field to do the work necessary to complete the Study and prepare it for public presentation. As president of Salem Community College, I was asked to coordinate presentations and dissemination of the Feasibility Study. On January 31 and February 1, Porzio Associates presented the Study to the public here on campus.
Essentially, the Study declares that without any changes in existing school attendance zones, a total of $6.8M in property tax dollars would be saved (as a County) through increased efficiencies and reducing duplicated functions. Let me reiterate: in this unified county district proposal, no student would have to change his/her current school or even classroom. The Study also advocates that a county school community can provide a more robust and thorough program for students as a result of magnitude. Additionally, issues of equity and inequity can be more effectively addressed in a unified school district.
The decision to change a school district configuration remains with the voters of Salem County. Municipal committees/councils and/or individual school districts may opt to put the question to the voters on a special election or the general election in November.
You may review the Feasibility Study and its Executive Summary on the Salem Community College news page here. Questions may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get answers from the experts as soon as possible.