What is the New Milford Education Foundation?
Founded in 2009, the New Milford Education Foundation (NMEF) awards monetary grants that support and enhance the New Milford School District’s curriculum, its students, and its teachers. The NMEF is a fully qualified IRS 501 (c) (3) ENTITY CHARTERED IN New Jersey as a Not-for-Profit charity. After several failed school budget referendums in the early 1990’s, many New Milford citizens desired a vehicle that could create and finance new and alternative school programs and initiatives. With the encouragement of the New Milford Board of Education, the NMEF was formed by a diverse group of concerned parents, school administrators, and alumni. The NMEF board meets regularly to review grant proposals, monitor existing programs and create new fundraising events.
How is NMEF Funded and Supported?
Financial support for the NMEF takes many forms: Contributions, Matching Corporate Gifts, Appreciated Stock, Bequests, Gifts in memory of loved ones.
The PTOs also raise money to support our schools. What is the difference between NMEF and these organizations?
The Foundation and the PTOs are both organizations that exist to provide strong support that is critical to our schools’ success. They are, however, different in structure and focus. The Foundation is an organization that was established solely to raise money and make grants to any of the district schools. It was created to be a long-term entity. Our donors can make tax deductible gifts. Both raise funds that make significant contributions to the school district, however, the Foundation’s grants focus on curriculum development as well as funding larger critical infrastructure needs within the school district.
Do most residents give a donation?
We are grateful for each and every gift that we have received from our community to date. Our teachers and students are most fortunate to have this kind of support. There may be many reasons why a school family would choose not to make a donation to the Foundation. One reason may be that people really don’t know what the Foundation does and how donations are used to give all our children such school benefits from Foundation grants, whether their families are donors or not. Keeping New Milford Schools among the top in the nation helps maintain real estate values - an added reason for residents without children in the schools to continue to support the Foundation. We hope to increase the donor participation rate among our residents.
Are alumni involved in fundraising efforts?
We believe that New Milford alumni greatly value the education and experience that they had and will support the Foundation. To this end, the Foundation will embark on an extensive outreach in 2013 to develop its alumni affairs by assembling a thorough database which will help the Foundation solicit donations from alumni.
Who decides how the money is spent?
We have an 11 member board which is comprised of all volunteer community members plus one school board representative and the superintendent. The community members represent a broad cross section of our overall community. As representatives for all our donors, our board takes their responsibility in considering all grants very seriously. We are focused on ensuring that the grants awarded are beneficial for a large number of students, are consistent with the goals of the school, and our mission. We have a rigorous procedure for evaluating and approving grants. The Foundation has no administrative expenses and all proceeds go to support the district.
How independent is your grant process from the goals of the administration if you have a Superintendent and a School Board member on your board?
We believe that the success of the NMEF is largely contingent upon actively engaging our administration and school board. By doing this, we can ensure consistency in prioritizing needs and working toward a common good of the schools. This does not mean that the administration or school board dictates what we choose to fund. Instead, they provide meaningful input into our direction and level of support for the schools as does each member of the board.
How can I justify giving the school any more after years of tax increases?
Taxes are a concern for everyone in our community and they have gone up over time. A large part of our taxes go to the schools and help to achieve the community’s goals of excellence for our students. However, there are costs that are outside of our district’s control such as pension requirements, state mandated programs and certiorari awards that have increased dramatically over the years. While our taxes may be considered high - our property values remain strong. The quality of our school has a direct impact on the strength of housing values.
As a community, we have very high standards for our schools. However, we cannot achieve these standards through public school funding alone. Our teachers and administrators have innovative and exciting ideas to improve the educational experience of ours students and they need a place to go for financial support. The Foundation helps to fill this very important role.