WESTFIELD, NJ — Recent estimates show that Westfield’s public schools will lose nearly half-a-million dollars in state aid for the 2020-21 school year, but the final extent of the potential loss remains unclear, the school district's business administrator said.

“Right now, the estimate that we have is that we are going to lose $494,000 out of the 2020-21 budget,” School Business Administrator Dana Sullivan said Tuesday night.

The district budget for next year, approved unanimously by the school board in April, included $5,005,708 in state aid, reflecting an increase of $724,434 over the 2019-20 figure.

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The state aid figure would not be finalized until the state budget is approved sometime in September, Sullivan said. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the state’s fiscal year was extended from June 30 to Sept. 30.

Sullivan said the district won't likely know its final aid figure until September.

The business administrator said she would most likely recommend the district use surplus funds to cover the gap caused by the loss in state aid, rather than cutting any staff or programs.

“To start making cuts in August or September is difficult when the year is already underway, and obviously we’ve already issued contracts to all staff for next year,” Sullivan said.

Projected costs for next year are also expected to change, she said.

“We’re certainly are going to have some savings in next year’s budget, from things like transportation to summer programs, which we’re not going to hold,” Sullivan said. “We’re also anticipating that there will be additional costs, which we don’t know what they are right now, because we don’t have guidelines from the state about how we’re going to reopen.”

Looking ahead, Sullivan said the district will be able to plan for the possibility that aid figures remain lower than normal in 2021-22 as well.

“In our planning, we’ll know in case we do continue to lose state aid, what reductions are we going to make in the budget,” she said.

Sullivan said she is also awaiting final extraordinary state aid numbers for this year, which are expected to be released sometime in July. This is money that may be used specifically for special education. The district budgeted $975,000 in extraordinary state aid for both this year and next year. Sullivan said this amount may be reduced and the reduction would be offset by decreases in costs.

“If there was a reduction there, we’re not in danger of running a deficit, because we have other areas where we’re saving money because of the closure,” Sullivan said. “We’re not in danger of running a deficit, but it is possible that we will not get as much as we expected.”

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