Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

School District Faces $245,000 Deficit

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

School District Faces $245,000 Deficit

Article excerpt

NORTH HALEDON -- The Board of Education is working on a plan to bridge a projected $245,000 budget deficit.

Board Auditor Dieter Lerch said the district originally faced a $452,000 deficit because of past overspent areas in special education, legal fees and computer lease payments. With surplus money and averaging other budget items that were overbudget, the deficit has been reduced to $95,000. But Michael Leary, the district's interim business administrator, projected that there will be an additional $150,000 deficit for the 2015-16 school year.

Lerch said the board must plan corrective action and that the Passaic County schools superintendent, who is the state's liaison to local districts, is aware of it.

Lerch said the plan must address the initial $95,000 deficit and the projected additional $150,000 deficit.

When Leary started as the interim business administrator on Oct. 1, he said his first priority was taking a closer look at the budget. He said there were a number of areas underbudgeted, including special education and salaries. He said the shortfall was almost $900,000. There were also budget lines that were in excess, such as health-benefit contributions.

"Even with balancing those efforts, we are still faced with a deficit of $150,000 without any changes in the budget that is the current status of the 2015-16 budget," he said.

Schools Superintendent Nicholas S. Coffaro said that when he started in July 2014 his merit bonus and other items weren't budgeted, which has raised red flags. He said much was uncovered during that time, but it was difficult to get answers.

"If you think you're angry, I'm angrier," Coffaro told an Oct. 29 meeting of the school board. "I'm holding it in. It's more anger than anything else. As a first-year superintendent, this isn't what I signed up for. I want to continue to make a good place, a better place, then we get chopped off at the knees."

"We are going to figure it out, but it's sad that we are still uncovering mistakes from 2013-14 that are literally in the top drawer," Coffaro said. …

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