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NEWARK (AUG 26 10) – In a ongoing budgeting nightmare that shows no sign of ending, the Newark School Board and administration are trying to come to grips with three pieces of the funding puzzle that haven’t quite solidified yet.

School districts across the state were required by state law to have their budgets finalized in May. Those budgets all included revenue from various state funding programs. Problem is, all those programs depended on a state budget that had not yet been passed.

Many school districts based the amount of state aid on the budget proposal Gov. David Paterson presented last December, and were conservative in their expectations.

Wednesday night, the Newark school board heard from Bob Fogel, assistant superintendent for business, who said that despite passage of the state budget, the state aid numbers are still in flux. In fact, he said the district is going to see money come and go in three waves.

First, Fogel explained, the state didn’t get all the Medicaid money the federal government promised, which has created a $300 million shortfall statewide. The school districts will help recover that amount, at a rate of about one percent of the total state aid package.

In Newark, Fogel said, the state aid package is about $25 million – one percent of that would be $250,000. He told the board to expect a state aid shortfall of somewhere between $200,000 and $250,000-plus, depending on the final formula used.

The impact of that shortfall, Fogel said, “depends on when it happens. If it happens early in the school year, we have a lot more leeway in what we can do. If it doesn’t happen until January or later, there’s a lot less we can do.”

Still, Fogel felt there would not be a major impact in Newark schools. “We still have a four percent fund balance in our rainy-day fund. I don’t think this (shortfall) will be insurmountable. I’m much more worried about the 2011-12 budget year than I am about this year.”

Second, the district is due to receive $580,000 as its share of the newly passed federal jobs fund designed to keep teachers employed. The problem is, Fogel said, although he expects to see the money, he doesn’t know when, or how it will come to the district. The good thing is that the $580,000 doesn’t have to be used immediately – it’s available to September, 2012. “We could spread it out over two school years,” he said

The third wave is what the state budget itself did to Newark. “We will lose $1.4 million in aid as compared to the previous year,” Fogel said. He noted that the actual shortfall was a bit over $2 million, but stimulus funds took a $400,000 bite out of the reduction.

Fortunately, Newark had figured in the $1.4 million reduction in its budget planning, so all the state budget’s passage did was to confirm what the district had already factored in.

The result of the state and federal governments ministrations = $1.4 million out, $580,000 in, then $200,000-$250,000+ out.

It’s no wonder school board members get prematurely gray.


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