Stockton University’s $4.6 million in additional funding in the 2020 budget survived Gov. Phil Murphy’s veto pen, but university officials say the funding is in limbo along with Stockton’s Atlantic City expansion.
“We do not have clarity on how much of that is being placed in reserve,” said Stockton President Harvey Kesselman on Monday. “We absolutely need that commitment of funds in order to move forward with phase two of the Atlantic City campus.”
At a Sunday news conference, Murphy said he was line-item vetoing $48.5 million, and putting another $235 million of spending of the Legislature’s $38.7 billion budget into reserve. It would be spent only if the state collects sufficient revenue to cover the extra spending, or if the Legislature provides a new revenue source, Murphy said.
On Monday, a spokesperson said Murphy expects the state Department of Treasury to compile the list of reserved spending some time this week.
Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, said the funding is important to the viability of Stockton and continued economic development in Atlantic City.
“I’m a little suspicious. I hate to put this as a North and South (issue),” Mazzeo said. “But with Rutgers Camden and Rowan vetoed, and Stockton in limbo, it really makes you feel again South Jersey legislators are going to have to really hold the governor’s feet to the fire and get an explanation of what’s going to happen.”
Rutgers University Camden lost about $500,000 in grants-in-aid, and Rowan University lost about $1 million for state-funded positions. They were the only two higher education institutions included in the line-item vetoes.
Murphy’s budget gave Stockton about $1.35 million, and the legislature added another $4.6 million, for a total of about $5.95 million.
Kesselman thanked the governor for not line-item vetoing the funding, and State Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Leader Craig Coughlin for “their confidence and support of Stockton.”
“Keep in mind why it is so critical for Stockton,” Kesselman said. “Stockton and Montclair (State University) get the least amount (of per student funding) of any senior public colleges and universities.”
Kesselman said Stockton opened its Atlantic City campus last fall without any additional state funding and needs the added revenue if it is to keep expanding there.
State Senator Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, said he has been working across the aisle with State Sen. Nina Gill, D-Essex, Passaic, and meeting with the state Department of Education to get increased funding for both Stockton and Montclair.
“If the governor and state are putting as much hopes on the revitalization of Atlantic City with Stockton playing its role, we need to fairly fund it from the state,” Brown said, “so students can still afford to attend college.”
He said he’s hopeful Stockton’s funding will not be held in reserve “because the formula was a partially revised formula we worked with the Secretary of Education to make it more fair.”
Murphy said Sunday the list of items to be put on hold will include spending he proposed.
“Overwhelmingly they will be programs we like,” Murphy said. “We want to do (these programs) but we have to see if revenues come in ahead of expectations or if the legislature presents us another revenue source.”
Murphy said the Legislature’s budget contained “unrealistic revenue projections, unachievable savings assumptions and underfunded programs and services.”
By refusing to raise taxes on those making more than $1 million a year, Murphy said the Legislature failed to create enough of a dependable revenue stream.
Stockton is negotiating with Atlantic City Development Corp. to build a six-story, $64 million second phase that will include a 405-bed residential complex across from O’Donnell Park in Atlantic City.
AC Devco is hoping to fund it with $54 million in tax-exempt debt through the Atlantic County Improvement Authority and a $10 million loan from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, AC Devco President Christopher Paladino has said. He expects to break ground in September and finish by summer 2021.
Paladino did not return calls for comment.
Paladino had expected to approach CRDA to request the funding at its June 18 meeting but did not. His company already has final site plan approval from CRDA.
Last September, Stockton opened a three-story academic building and a 533-bed residence hall along Albany Avenue.