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Board of Education By the Numbers- Budget Discussion

Jennifer Dericks

Sunday, January 26, 2014 • 7:10pm

SPARTA, NJ- Budget talks are beginning at the Sparta Board of Education.  The long process of creating the budget for the 2014-2015 school year has begun with discussion among district administrators and board members.

According to the New Jersey School Boards Association, "The board’s budgeting responsibilities include discussing all program needs and setting the parameters for budget development. The superintendent then works with other staff members to draft a budget to meet board goals and student needs, complies [sic] with state regulations, and stays [sic] within the district’s financial resources."

Early in the process each building Principal, and the Directors of Buildings and Grounds, Special Services  and Transportation create their 'budget books.'  The preliminary budgets are based on the previous and current years' budgets and anticipation of what will be needed in the upcoming year.  They wil, in part rely on projected enrollment, changes to mandates and identified resource and facilities needs.

These preliminary budgets are then discussed with the business administrator and superintendent.  Priorities are identified as the budget begins to take shape within the strict confines of the available funds.  These priorities and options are shared with the board members, along with recommendations from the district administrators.  The board members and administrators weigh the implications of the expenditures in the context of impact on students and the district as a whole.

In addition to many mandates and restrictions that affect all aspects of a public school budget, the challenge presented to board members and district staff is that budget must be created so far in advance.  It must be submitted by March for the following school year that begins in September.    Further, the budget audit takes place in the summer after the fiscal year ends on June 30.  It is typically reported to the board in the late fall.  This means, for example, audit information from the 2012-2013 school year is the most current information available to help create the school budget for 2014-2015.

At the work session other items discussed pertaining to budget were  the track at the high school, staffing and classroom resources. 

The 40-year old high school track has been a perennial budget issue.  Not only is it undersized prohibiting home meets,  the surface is substandard to the point of being dangerous, according to parents of runners.  Numerous injuries have been reported by students who have fallen because of the cracks and developed shin splints due to the antiquated surface.  In addition to cost, wetland encumbrances make replacement especially challenging. A new track was part of the most recently defeated referendum. 

The topic of full day kindergarten has been discussed with specificity at the last two board meetings.  It is likely the largest  potential change to the budget for the upcoming year. 

Additional information on full day kindergarten can be found in an  article on this topic -http://thealternativepress.com/articles/district-plans-school-realignment-to-avoid-bathro

It is expected that the budget will be discussed at each meeting until submission deadline in March.  Monday, Jan 27 is the next Regular Sparta Board of Education Meeting beginning at 7:30 at Mohawk Avenue School. 

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