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Tight School Budget Timeline 'Interesting'

State aid numbers arrive a week before 2013-14 budget due to county superintendent

The timeline for crafting the school district's 2013-14 budget will be tight, but administrators want to give the public opportunities to learn about the spending plan and offer input before adoption. 

Administrators have said that the budget is expected to include about a 1.9 percent expenditures increase over the $204 million 2012-13 school budget. State aid figures and Superstorm Sandy's impact on taxes remain unknown. 

"We're still finalizing which information we're going to have and when," said Business Administrator William Doering during the Board of Education's regular meeting Tuesday night. 

State aid numbers should be known just days after Gov. Chris Christie gives his budget address, according to Doering. 

"What makes the timeline very interesting is that the governor's budget address is the 25th of February and state aid numbers are released within a couple of days of that budget address," Doering said. The budget must be submitted to the Ocean County Superintendent of Schools the following week. 

The district plans to hold public meetings at its 1144 Hooper Ave. offices on Wednesday, Feb. 27 and Thursday, Feb. 28 to present the budget to the public and field questions about the plan. 

"It hasn't been firmly decided yet, but we will have enough detailed information to make it a meaningful session," Doering said. "Given the tight timeline, we almost have to put out the information with a huge asterisk that says 'pending county review and approval, subject to change."

Then on March 5, the board will hold another public budget meeting at High School North to approve the plan before it is sent to the county superintendent by March 7.

"That budget can come back to us to change it," board President Ben Giovine cautioned. 

Finally, the public hearing and budget vote by the board is scheduled for March 21 at High School North. 

Giovine said the district will answer questions as best as they can before the budget is submitted to the county and the number of budget meetings before the final adoption has been increased compared to years prior. 

Last week, board members and administrators discussed the budget, including the potential tax changes and ways to possibly counteract the potential of a 20 percent decrease in Toms River's ratables base. 

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