Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Funding for Schools Key Issue in District 38

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Funding for Schools Key Issue in District 38

Article excerpt

State Assembly races will top the ballot in New Jersey for the first time in 15 years this November.

While that is likely to result in a low turnout, one of the most closely watched and competitive contests will unfold in District 38, a longtime bellwether for politics in Bergen County.

There the battle is already engaged, with both sides jousting over taxes and the state school-financing formula.

Democratic incumbents Tim Eustace of Maywood and Joseph Lagana of Paramus say property-tax relief is possible if Trenton fully funds the state's school-financing formula, something that hasn't happened in several years.

"If the formulas are actually funded the way they're supposed to be, it would have the effect of lowering taxes," Lagana said, noting that about 65 percent of local property-tax bills go toward paying for schools.

But GOP challengers Mark DiPisa of Lodi and Anthony Cappola of River Edge say that formula is broken because it diverts too much state money away from Bergen County. They want a constitutional amendment to redo the formula.

"Fix the formula," DiPisa said. "Just don't fund something that's broke."

Their comments came in a pair of back-to-back interviews last week on a wide range of legislative topics, including what to do about the state employee pension system and the nearly depleted state Transportation Trust Fund.

The four candidates are vying for two seats in a district that has seen closely fought and expensive contests in recent years. The two parties spent a record $5.8 million in the district two years ago, when Eustace won reelection by the razor-thin margin of 35 votes.

This year, they are running in an election that also will decide three seats on the Bergen County Board of Freeholders, where Democrats hold a 5-2 majority. Republicans would need to win all three to regain control.

There are no federal or state Senate seats up for grabs, and the next gubernatorial election is not scheduled until 2017.

When asked about what they would do to lower taxes, the District 38 Democrats suggested several measures, including encouraging more shared services between towns, better managing the state pension investment portfolio and fully funding the school-aid formula. …

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