CAMDEN, NJ — Over a year after Camden schools submitted a request for $44 million in emergency aid to offset climbing internal costs, Superintendent Katrina McCombs said Tuesday that the district has been denied the money.
“You are probably wondering why it was denied, and all I can say for now is that according to the State Department, the district ended the [19-20] year with a positive cash balance and thus, the determination was made that the district did not need any additional funding,” McCombs said during the meeting.
The Camden City School District (CCSD) has been tightening its belt with spending and hiring freezes - financial hardships that have only been exacerbated because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In announcing the emergency aid would not come through, McCombs also said the state expects to cut $4 million from state aid due to its own fiscal challenges resulting from the health crisis.
In May, the superintendent said the district was counting on $22 million at the very least while the state reviewed the CCSD’s books. However, that money — as well more to keep Veterans Memorial School up and running — was never sent.
In a letter to the district dated June 26, then-Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) Lamont Repollet wrote, “Based upon a thorough needs assessment, including review of the district’s application and the elements outlined above, the Department determined the district has sufficient resources to fund appropriations in the 2019-2020 school year. Accordingly, the application is denied.”
Repollet has since become president of Kean University.
According to an auditor cited by the DOE, “multiple weaknesses in the internal control of the district” were discovered. Said weaknesses touched on governmental activities, business-type activities and the food services enterprise fund.
Mike Yaple, spokesperson for the DOE, said the district still has the ability to “supplement” their application for emergency aid due to any struggles it is facing or a change of circumstances.
“It is unfortunate that our students are in the middle of an obligation on the states’ part to ensure a state-operated district has all the resources it needs,” McCombs said. “But we’ll continue to move forward as a district, with a strategic planning process, input from the community and multiple stakeholders to ensure that we’re able to provide students with equitable education regardless of school type."