LACEY – Board of Education members are sharpening their pencils and getting ready to crunch numbers for this year’s budget presentation.
Board member Edward Scanlon heads the board’s financial committee that will be working on the budget along with the school district’s financial department. Scanlon had previously recommended to the board that it hold a series of public budget workshops similar to those held by the Township Committee, that would show transparency in how the budget was being prepared.
Scanlon said the regular annual audit of the school system “was submitted with the conclusion that our financial statements are free of error. There were no negative findings and our district is in a strong financial position.”
“Our books are in very good shape and I’d like to thank our business administrator (Patrick S. DeGeorge) and his department for keeping it that way,” Scanlon said.
In regards to the anticipated loss of state aid to the district, he added “it is estimated that we will be down $1.6 million more. Right now, department heads throughout the district are in the second round of budget meetings to put together a budget and keeping in mind that we do have less revenue coming in, in the form of assistance from the state,” Scanlon said.
“We are anticipating increases in health coverage as well as property and casualty insurances. It is not all grim but we are aware that we do have to be very careful,” he added.
Board Vice President Harold “Skip” Peters said he also attended a recent finance committee meeting with Scanlon. The facilities committee, which oversees the buildings, was also discussed as part of that session. “We consolidated the facilities committee back with finance.”
“We discussed the new alarm system throughout the district. We talked about a public address system and new doors and security throughout the schools,” Peters added.
DeGeorge said that one of the responsibilities of that committee “is to build a plan for the future so we talked about the five-year plan and what projects we would like to undertake over that five-year period. We are in the process of prioritizing them and assigning a dollar amount to them. We are discussing the future inflow of how to handle our reserve funds.”
Scanlon said “we will be having workshop sessions before the first reading of the budget and the first presentation to the public which will be in the middle of March. Sometime during the end of February or early part of March the entire Board will meet.”
“It will be presented to the public. It is not for public input though. It is for the public to observe our working together to put together the preliminary budget. Between the first presentation of the budget and the adoption of the budget we will have additional workshop sessions to allow the Board to express concerns and to have input and to discuss what is being presented,” Scanlon added.
Scanlon said, “in May, the public will have their opportunity to express their thoughts and concerns at the final meeting where we do the final presentation for the budget.”
Peters also discussed a policy committee meeting he attended that involved how policy decisions were arrived at and the acronyms that come with each policy.
Topics included “whether it is a regulation or whether it is mandated. We talked about some bylaws, how they apply to our district,” Peters said.
That meeting included fellow Board member Regina Discenza, new Board member Kim Klaus and Superintendent Vanessa Clark. Peters said Clark explained “when a policy comes in, she would forward that to the department it goes to. So, if it is something going to finance, she will forward that to the Finance Department. If it is something involving athletics that will be sent to the athletic department. We talked about how a policy is what, a regulation is how and we also discussed emergency crisis situations.”
Board member Linda Downing spoke about a recent Curriculum Committee meeting. “The first thing we talked about was the NJQSAC and the district preparing for the QSAC process. It stands for New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum.”
Downing said that in December, the governor signed into law a bill that gave certain districts the ability to postpone the NJQSAC review providing administrative relief for school districts and postponing the review until the 2023-24 school year.
“If a school was scored as high performing in the most recent review, they could take advantage of this postponement. Lacey was acknowledged as a high performing district in their last review so we are going to postpone our QSAC until 2023. We will take advantage of that law,” Downing said.
Also discussed was the purchase of scoring tables for high school telecommunication classes. “These tables will be used to support audio visual equipment during school events therefore expanding live broadcast capabilities,” Downing added.
Discenza said, “I’d like to offer my apologies in advance to the high school class of 2021. We don’t know what this year will hold. All we can do is continue to hope for normal and thank all the parents and staff as we continue to juggle the navigation of remote and in person learning. The district is continuing to follow all the recommendations of the Ocean County Health Department.”