UNION, NJ – In August 2019, the Union Board of Education filed a request for emergent aid to supplement the current fiscal school year budget. The request for $2 million in emergency aid was denied by the New Jersey Department of Education, citing among other things a decrease in enrollment, a history of excess surplus, and the district’s funds in reserve.
In a letter dated December 6 to Superintendent Gregory Tatum, Education Commissioner Lamont O. Repollet concluded, “based upon a thorough needs assessment, including review of the district’s application and the elements outlined (below), the Department determined the district has sufficient resources to fund appropriations in the 2019-2020 school year.”
The letter summarizes the needs assessment conducted based on Union’s application for the additional $2 million in Emergency Aid. It indicates that a request for missing or incomplete information in the district’s original application submission was requested from the district on September 10. Upon review of the additional information, “the Department noted that items are still incomplete or missing from the application”. Notwithstanding the missing information, the Department reviewed the application based on the submitted items.
According to the Department of Education’s letter, the Department found the following:
- The district adopted a balanced 2019-2020 original budget which included an increase in state aid of $334,220 in FY20.
- Student enrollment has decreased by approximately 6% over the ten-year period beginning with 2011. Per pupil costs have increased by 43% over that same time period.
- The district received approximately $2,043,636 of extraordinary aid for 2018-2019 and the district appropriated $1,200,000 of it. “Recognition of the additional $843,636 of general fund revenue for the year ended June 30, 2019, may provide additional surplus that could be used to fund 2019-2020 general fund appropriations.”
- The district has a five-year history of audited surplus from 2013-14, ranging from approximately $808,567 to $6,727,450 each year, “indicating the 2019-2020 appropriations may also be overstated”.
- The district has approximately $450,000 in maintenance reserve and has budged approximately $2,098,831 in required maintenance. The district budgeted a withdrawal of $0 in 2019-20, leaving approximately $450,000 still available in the reserve to fund 2019-20 appropriations.
- The district has approximately $725,000 in emergency reserve.
- The district received an unbudgeted 2018-2019 reimbursement of $106,989 for Nonpublic Transportation aid. “Recognition of this general fund revenue may result in additional unassigned surplus available.”
A request for comment from TAPinto Union to Superintendent Tatum went unanswered.