Marlboro board makes changes in budget to account for loss of school aid

Eric Sucar

The Marlboro K-8 School District Board of Education has cut $313,566 from its 2018-19 budget and moved $213,566 from its surplus fund (savings) into the budget to compensate for an unexpected reduction in state aid for the upcoming school year.

Under Gov. Phil Murphy’s initial proposal in March, the district’s state aid package for 2018-19 was expected to total $11.688 million. Using that number and following directives from state officials, district administrators crafted a $92.3 million budget for the new fiscal year that began July 1.

In mid-July, following negotiations with leaders in the state Legislature, Murphy signed a bill into law which revises the way state aid is distributed to New Jersey’s school districts.

“After years of neglect, we are turning the page to bring a balanced approach to school aid by removing the growth cap on funding increases and finally beginning the process of fully implementing the state’s school funding formula established in 2008,” Murphy said in a statement following the bill’s enactment into law.

However, as a result of that action in Trenton, Marlboro’s state aid for 2018-19 was immediately reduced to $11.161 million. District administrators had two weeks to determine how to make up for the loss of $527,000 they had included in the budget.

During a meeting on July 31, board members adjusted the budget by appropriating $213,566 from surplus and making $313,566 in cuts. The cuts were accounted for with a $263,566 reduction in medical benefits, a $25,000 reduction in maintenance and a $25,000 reduction in general instructional supplies for all grades, according to the board.

Business Administrator Cindy Barr-Rague explained that the reduction in the medical benefits was made as administrators anticipated a reduction in rates for the state health benefit program in which the district participates, which means there would have been more money budgeted for that line item than was necessary.

Barr-Rague said the plan put in place by Murphy and the Legislature – and signed into law by the governor on July 24 – will continue to reduce Marlboro’s state aid in the following manner during the next six years: by about $500,000 for 2019-20; by about $500,000 for 2020-21; by about $700,000 for 2021-22; by about $900,000 for 2022-23; by about $1 million for 2023-24; and by about $1.2 million for 2024-25.

Superintendent of Schools Eric Hibbs said, “It’s a very unfair process because the state comes out and gives you an allotment (of state aid), the board then makes and designs a budget that is approved and submitted, and then after that happens, (the state) comes back and says your amount has changed.

“It could have changed to the plus, but that did not happen for us. Freehold Borough got a lot (more) money, Kingsway, which is one of the most underfunded districts in the state, got a lot (more) money, but they don’t tell you the flip side which is that they took (money) from other school districts,” he said.