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Marlboro schools experiencing ‘financial distress,’ stabilization aid sought

MARLBORO — The members of the Marlboro K-8 School District Board of Education will submit an application to the state to seek stabilization aid as the district deals with a situation they have labeled “financial distress.”

During a meeting on Sept. 13, board members took action on the agenda item.

In a resolution, the board members said a state law “allows for appropriations to fund stabilization aid to school districts experiencing a reduction in state aid and/or facing a structural budgetary imbalance” and they went on to say Marlboro “has suffered reductions in 2022-23 state aid … of $910,553 (and a cumulative reduction over four years of $3.45 million) since Fiscal Year 2019.

The board’s resolution states that “despite seeing temporary relief from ESSER grant funds and favorable budget variances for the prior budget years due to the (coronavirus) pandemic, the district is still facing budget constraints and (is) unable to address its aging transportation fleet and inadequate classroom technology due to S-2 (New Jersey’s school funding law).

“The district will continue to experience financial constraints which will not only have an impact on the everyday operations of the district, but also the equitable learning experience being provided to the Marlboro students,” according to the resolution.

Speaking on behalf of the district, the board members said, “The district does not believe any further significant budget cuts can be made without having a very negative impact on
students in terms of class sizes and program offerings.”

They went on to say, “the district requires additional aid in 2022-23 as we anticipate a state aid reduction of approximately $665,122 at minimum for the 2023-24 school year, and such aid reductions should not be fully made up for through the required 2% tax levy increase nor by any significant reductions in expenses … nor should the aid reduction be made up for by using additional ESSER funds as such funds are temporary and will lead to an even more severe future financial burden.”

Having stated the school district’s financial situation, the Marlboro board members authorized the submission of an application for stabilization aid in an amount of $2.14 million “due to financial distress we are and will be experiencing due to S-2 reductions.”

Board President Randy Heller and board members Kathleen Amster, Aldo Patruno, Christina Russotto, Susan Shrem, Jennifer Silacci and Jill Strafaci voted “yes” to pass the resolution.

Board Vice President Tricia Branch and Jessica Piernik were absent from the meeting.

During public comment, Debra Venedam referenced an October 2021 communication from Superintendent of Schools Eric Hibbs which stated that the school district has never had a budget deficit and that the district has navigated the state aid reductions of recent years.

“What changed that now we need help from the state? Something is not right here. Last year during the election season we were told everything is fine,” Venedam said.

Business Administrator Vincent Caravello said the school district is “in no shape or form in a deficit,” which he said is a specific and defined circumstance.

He said if the school district was in a deficit, a state monitor would be assigned to oversee its operations and that is not the case in Marlboro.

Caravello did say, “We are taking this opportunity to apply for lost funding. It is stressful on the district to lose state aid year after year.”

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