Above: Gottheimer at Vernon Township High School today.
VERNON TOWNSHIP, NJ — Today, June 3, 2021, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) announced that new federal dollars are being clawed back from Washington for school districts in Sussex County and Warren County, as part of the American Rescue Plan — the COVID-19 relief package signed into law in March 2021. Sussex County school districts will receive an estimated total $9.09 million, and Warren County school districts an estimated total $6.14 million.
After years of school funding cuts from the State and new expenses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, these new federal resources come through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund (ESSER) for schools to use to follow CDC guidance to safely and fully reopen schools for in-person learning; to keep educators and students safe; to improve ventilation; to avoid faculty layoffs; to implement necessary programs to meet the academic and mental health needs of students hit hardest by the pandemic; to invest in Wi-Fi hotspots and technology for students to stay connected; and, to invest in critical after-school and summer programs to help some students catch up.
“The federal American Rescue Plan dollars we are delivering today, that I fought so hard for, will help stem the bleeding from the state’s budget cuts, and will directly help our students, teachers, and schools here in Sussex and Warren Counties. Now, with this COVID-19 relief package that Congress passed and had signed into law this past March, and new resources being clawed back to our communities — like the million dollars coming here — my hope is we can improve our schools and help stem property tax increases,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “This pandemic has disrupted Northwestern New Jersey students’ learning for too long, which is why I’ve fought throughout the COVID relief negotiations to include our state government, local and municipal governments, and school districts in the plan for federal help. On both sides of the aisle, I know this is something that we can all come together to support, because we all see how clearly this relief is needed right here at home.”
“We are truly lucky to have a congressional representative who pays as much attention to Vernon Township after we have given him our vote of confidence, as he did when he was seeking our vote of confidence. He has always been here for us, and with us, whenever we have needed him. The COVID-19 crisis, has devastated the health, education, and economic wellbeing of millions of Americans. Many of those Americans live here in Vernon Township. Funds from the American Rescue Plan will deliver relief to many who have been negatively impacted by this COVID-19 crisis, and thanks to the tireless work of our congressman, Vernon Township will get its share of these funds,” said Vernon Mayor Howard Burrell.
“Today, I am grateful and honored to introduce Congressman Gottheimer. Without his support of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund, our district would not be able to plan for the future our children deserve,” said Superintendent of Vernon Schools Karen D’Avino. “This funding finally allows us to plan on caring for our facilities and students in ways that are necessary to develop the whole child and support academic, athletic, artistic, and social emotional needs.”
“On behalf of the Vernon Township Board of Education, I want to thank President Biden, Vice President Harris, Congressman Gottheimer and other members of Congress — for choosing to invest in education — for choosing to invest in the students of the Vernon Township School District,” said Vernon Board of Education President Justin Annunziata. “It is no secret that Vernon continues to face declining state funding for our schools. Now more than ever, federal grant money provided through the American Rescue Plan will provide us with the opportunity to meet the changing needs of our students, as we climb out of the COVID-19 crisis, and look towards a new day.”
Today’s announcement at Vernon Township High School, where Vernon School District will be clawing back $1.45 million, Gottheimer was joined by Vernon Mayor Howard Burrell, Executive County Superintendent Dr. Gayle Carrick, Superintendent of Vernon Schools Karen D’Avino, Vernon Council President Harry Shortway, Vernon Councilman Andrew Pitsker, Vernon Board of Education President Justin Annunziata, and Pam McCann of the Secretary School Education Association.
The new federal dollars being clawed back to Fifth District school districts in Sussex & Warren Counties include:
Fifth District Sussex County estimates:
- Andover Regional School District: $384,139
- Frankford Township School District: $253,958
- Franklin Borough School District: $653,088
- Fredon Township School District: $326,885
- Hamburg Borough School District: $248,378
- Hampton Township School District: $222,441
- Hardyston Township School District: $338,402
- Kittatinny Regional School District: $581,759
- Lafayette Township School District: $129,981
- Montague Township School District: $986,189
- Newton Town School District: $1,620,275
- Stillwater Township School District: $197,364
- Sussex-Wantage Regional School District: $1,183,957
- Vernon Township School District: $1,459,239
- Wallkill Valley Regional School District: $511,234
Fifth District Warren County estimates:
- Great Meadows Regional School District: $526,598
- Allamuchy Township School District: $220,221
- Belvidere Town School District: $297,674
- Blairstown Township School District: $316,920
- Frelinghuysen Township School District: $100,579
- Hackettstown Town School District: $1,228,467
- Hope Township School District: $139,120
- North Warren Regional School District: $419,633
- Oxford Township School District: $227,816
- Warren Hills Regional School District: $1,077,469
- Washington Borough School District: $970,943
- Washington Township School District: $266,705
- White Township School District: $353,048
Find more information on how school districts can utilize the federal dollars here.
Watch today’s announcement here.
Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below.
I’m here today because we all know that the past year hasn’t been an easy time for our country, or for our state. We also know that the same can be said for our schools, our educators, and all our students and families too.
But we’re here today to turn so much of the anguish and frustration over the past year into action and hope as we rebound from this crisis.
I’m joining with these great leaders from here in Vernon to announce that, as part of what I fought hard for, we’re clawing back new federal dollars from the most recent COVID-19 relief package to help every school district in Sussex and Warren Counties recover from the pandemic, get prepared for school opening in the fall, and help our communities move forward.
Today, I’m announcing that — for the Fifth District towns in Northwestern Jersey counties — Sussex County school districts will claw back $9.09 million in total from the federal government, and Warren County school districts will claw back $6.14 million in total — including an estimated $1.45 million right here for the Vernon school district.
Every town will get something, so these federal dollars will help students and schools all across Sussex and Warren Counties.
We will be posting each individual school district’s amount on my website in the coming weeks.
This a huge win — a huge claw-back — for Sussex and Warren, and I know how much these resources will help our educators, students, and families.
COVID-19, as well as budget issues in recent years, have not been easy for our schools in Sussex and Warren Counties.
The state budget cuts from over the past few years have taken a real toll on our school districts — including here in Vernon.
As the New Jersey Herald has reported, according to the State’s K-12 school spending plan announced this past February, nearly every Sussex County school district will see cuts.
We know that when the State cuts funding, that means either local taxes have to go up or school services have to get cut — like in Vernon where they’re losing about $10 million from the State over the next six years.
The federal American Rescue Plan dollars we are delivering today, that I fought so hard for, will help stem the bleeding from the state’s budget cuts – and will directly help our students, teachers, and schools here in Sussex and Warren County.
As I said, this is not only a Vernon issue, it’s all across Sussex and Warren. The New Jersey Herald reported in February that Stillwater will see a funding cut of at least 24%, Kittatinny will have its funding cut by 20%, and so many other Sussex school districts are all facing cuts.
The parents, teachers, and staff here know what that means. It means that school districts have had to make very difficult decisions to make ends meet. Here in Vernon, they’ve had to slowly stop replacing teachers and faculty as they retire — to lower the number of staff on payroll — and they’ve also cut back on enriching education programs, like the number of foreign languages offered to students.
I’ve heard from far too many families in North Jersey that other Sussex school districts have been grappling with similar challenges, too.
Then, of course, after years of these cuts, a raging global pandemic hits us, with New Jersey at the eye of the COVID-19 storm early on, and school life was turned upside-down.
Here in Vernon, unforeseen expenses suddenly took up major portions of the school district’s budget: necessities like extra sanitation supplies to try to get students back in the classroom and new technology and broadband needs to help students and teachers who had to be remote.
This is on top of capital improvements and school infrastructure issues that the district has been facing: things like aging buildings, replacement of old windows, improvement of ventilation, and constant upkeep that can impact local budgets.
We also know that New Jersey can be an incredibly expensive place to live — with a huge majority of local property taxes eaten up by the school budgets. Here, like many towns, it’s 60 percent or so of your local tax dollars. So, while we remain committed to providing the best education possible to our students, and I must say, we have the best teachers and schools in the country — we also don’t want to raise property taxes on our hardworking families.
Now, with the COVID-19 relief package that Congress passed and had signed into law this past March, and new resources are being clawed back to our communities, like the million dollars coming here – my hope is we can improve our schools and stem property tax increases. Through the American Rescue Plan, it is estimated that Stillwater will now claw back an estimated $197,000, Kittatinny will get an estimated $581,000, and, again, here in Vernon, they will claw back about $1.45 million of new resources.
These new federal COVID dollars for our schools come from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund (or E.S.S.E.R.), which we allocate through the American Rescue Plan to every state government. New Jersey will divide up those federal resources, per federal guidance, to our school districts here in the Fifth District.
According to the American Rescue Plan, this new federal investment can be utilized to address the many impacts the pandemic has had on our schools, including following CDC guidance to safely and fully reopen schools for in-person learning; to keep educators and students safe; improving ventilation; avoiding faculty layoffs; meeting the academic and mental health needs of students hit hardest by the pandemic; investing in Wi-Fi hotspots and technology for students who still need to connect for remote learning; and investing in critical afterschool and summer programs to help some students catch up.
Here in Vernon, I know these critical resources can help support their new summer academic enrichment programs, for students who may need help getting fully back up to speed after having to learn remotely for the past year.
This pandemic has disrupted Northwestern New Jersey students’ learning for too long, which is why I’ve pushed throughout the COVID relief negotiations to include our state government, local and municipal governments, and school districts in the plan for federal help.
On both sides of the aisle, I know this is something that we can all come together to support, because we all see how clearly this relief is needed right here at home.
I’ve also led efforts to push to reopen Jersey schools quickly and safely, get greater clarity on federal safety guidance, and I pushed the state to prioritize teachers as more vaccines rolled out. We also worked hand-in-hand with our local hospitals to make sure teachers had access to vaccine appointments outside of work hours.
All of this — the estimated $9.09 million for Fifth District school districts in Sussex County and $6.14 million for Fifth District school districts in Warren County, as well as pushing to reopen schools as swiftly and safely as possible — is key to helping Northern New Jersey get back to normal and help our families, businesses, and communities rebound.
This is on top of all the other relief the most recent COVID-19 package and all it’s doing for Sussex and Warren: including investment directly to every county, town, and borough government, direct checks that helped so many families, support for broadband and sewer, and helping waive federal income taxes on unemployment benefits, and relief for our live venues and restaurants.
This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. It’s a what’s good for Sussex and Warren County issue. And what’s good for our country. I know that the steps we are announcing today will continue to help Sussex County and Warren County recover and rebound from this crisis. And it’s clawing our federal tax dollars back to where they belong — with our New Jersey families and communities.
I know all our local officials, school leaders, educators, and students feel the same.
We live in the greatest country in the world and I know that working together, our best days will always be ahead of us.
Please stay safe and healthy, and God bless.