CLARK, NJ – The Clark Board of Education unanimously adopted the 2018-2019 school year budget at its last meeting while issuing a word of caution about the financial forecast for future budgets.
The evening began with Business Administrator R. Paul Vizzuso presenting the budget to the Board and public. The total budget for the next school year is $38,441,104. That number includes the operating budget ($36,117,280), special revenue ($1,035,693), and debt service ($968,792).
Five schools and 2,090 students ranging from kindergarten to grade 12 are supported by the financial plan, Vizzuso said. Cost per student is at $13,984.
The projected school tax for the 2018 - 2019 school year is $5,178 (based on a home with an average assessed value of $121,000), up slightly from the current year.
After the budget presentation, BOE member Bob Smorol thanked Superintendent Ed Grande and Vizzuso for their thoughtful planning and fiscal responsibility. He then issued a warning to the community about the next budget planning season.
“Not to be the grim reaper, but when we go to the 19-20 school budget…that number (surplus) is going to be nowhere near as big and the $1.5 million surplus we had this year, it’s going to be significantly smaller and it’s going to put us, based on our projections in a strained situation once again when we get to 19-20,” said Smorol.
In a follow-up interview with Smorol, he explained how surplus is determined for a given school year and how it is not moved from one school year directly into the next school year’s budget, but instead skips a year. This is because when a school year is over a formal audit of all the financials is scheduled and conducted during the next school year.
Any money remaining after the audit, goes into the next school budget planning process, not directly into the current year coffers for spending. So in actuality any remaining surplus money from a budget year appears in the budget two years later.
As an example the 2017-2018 budget is in effect in Clark’s school district now. An audit of how this money was spent and tended to will be performed during the next school year 2018-2019 when the 2018-2019 budget is in operation.
If at the end of the audit of that 2017-2018 budget, there were to be any surplus, is would be added to the 2019-2020 budget planning process since the 2018-2019 is already set and being used.
Smorol’s words of caution were directed toward the anticipation that there will be no surplus after the audit of 2017-2018 budget and it will potentially lead to a shortfall in the 2019-2020 school year fiscal plans.
“So we are trying to be a little creative in terms of how we spend but I don’t want to give the public a false sense of security that this whole budget issue we experienced last year is now behind us,” said Smorol. “If you remember the surplus coming into this year was zero, and probably will be next year again, the year after we drop off the cliff, I just want everyone to know where we are at.”
Smorol cited the rising cost of salaries, benefits, student out of district placement, transportation, utilities and insurance for the rise in total expenditures and possible shortfalls.
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