The actual 2012-2013 Preliminary School Budget submitted by the Clinton Township school district to the State of New Jersey Department of Education is finally available — but not through the school district. ExMayor.com has obtained it from the State using a legal filing.
The full, official document is 107 pages long. The school board has published 38-pages of spreadsheets — that it calls “the user-friendly budget” — ginned up with Excel to look like 78 pages.
The quick & dirty budget approval process
On March 5, 2012 the Clinton Township school board submitted its preliminary 2012-2013 budget to the N. J. Department of Education. A few days earlier, the board voted 7-1 to approve this budget at a 7:30am last-minute meeting.
And a few days before that, on February 27, school board president Jim Dincuff shut down serious questions about why the board members had not been given full copies of the proposed budget — even though it was on the agenda for approval.
Even at the time they voted to approve the budget on March 2, school board members had not seen — or been given — the complete $26 million budget they approved.
Public deprived of documents to comment on
Tonight, the board is holding a public “work session” on the budget, where the public may comment on it. The trouble is, the public has not seen a full copy of the budget submitted to the State — so what is there to comment upon, intelligently?
The board has published an abbreviated “user friendly” version on its website. What’s the big deal about publishing the legal instrument itself — the preliminary budget the district actually submitted to the State? The bigger problem is, most board members have still not seen the actual document they approved, either. The full document is still not available on the school website.
Would you sign your tax return — before looking at the actual document?
Would you sign off on a $26 million legal instrument — without looking at the actual document? Most of your elected officials on the school board did.
Why is the BOE hiding the budget — from itself?
The complete document had to be obtained by ExMayor.com from the N. J. Department of Education using an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request.
Still waiting for better “communication”
The night the board voted 6-3 to eliminate school budget elections, member Maria Grant introduced a resolution to make up for killing an election. The board approved it:
“Be it resolved that the Clinton Township board of education is committed to being very active in communicating the district’s budget process and financial information to the members of the Clinton Township community, therefore the Clinton Township board of education will present the approved budget to the community and to the organizations in the community.” [sic]
But where’s the approved budget?