Your State Tax Relief: They spent it. They just don’t know where, or exactly how much.

Clinton Township board of education meeting to approve the budget
March 29, 2012, 7:30pm

A key issue raised by the public about the board’s increased budget is why the board has not returned state aid it has received to taxpayers, to lower the school tax levy. During public comment, several people asked the board to explain the details of the budget. Some members of the public criticized the board for not being in possession of the numbers; for example, costs to operate the physical plant, and costs of salaries and benefits.

One of the key questions: Where is $2.8 million of extra state aid the district has been awarded for 2011-2012 and 2012-2013? Each time, the board thanked the individual for the question and moved on.

Where is the extra $2.8 million?

Finally, one resident insisted on an answer about the extra state aid.

Board member Mark Kaplan, chair of the finance committee, answered. These are selected quotations from the comments he made:

“I can’t explain every line item in the budget.”

“It’s very confusing.”

“It’s impossible to understand.”

The purpose of the meeting was to explain the budget to interested residents.

Asked to explain exactly where the state aid was spent, or what specific line items it was allocated to, Kaplan said:

“I don’t have all of them.”

“I’ll go through the big ones.”

Then Kaplan reported on various items:

“…a quarter million dollars…”
“…about a hundred thousand dollars…”
“…about a hundred thousand dollars…”
“….about a hundred seventeen thousand dollars…”
“…to the tune of about $22,000…”
“…some architectural and engineering fees of about $40,000…”
“…about $300,000…
“…a few items of five or ten thousand dollars…”
“…around 1.1 million dollars…”

Not once did Kaplan report an exact number from the budget he and the board were being questioned about — the budget he and the board were about to vote to approve and send to the State Department of Education.

Why didn’t Kaplan report the exact whereabouts of the $2.8 million of extra money?

Kaplan admitted:

“It’s impossible to understand.”

Your Tax Relief: They spent it

A few minutes earlier, Kaplan admitted that the board had already spent well over $1 million of the state aid — aid it never reported in the budget approved by voters last year — on recurring salaries for new staff members, and on long-term, recurring expenses that the district would have to pay year after year — knowing that the State did not guarantee future aid.

It’s gone.

Exactly how much did they spend? What did the school district spend it on? The head of the finance committee said:

“I can’t explain every line item in the budget. It’s very confusing. It’s impossible to understand.”

The purpose of the meeting was to approve a new $24,451,895 school tax levy for 2012-2013.

Taxpayers attended the last-minute emergency meeting to find out exactly where their money was going to be spent.

Lies, lies, all lies

In an August 30, 2011 letter to the editor, board president Jim Dincuff promised taxpayers almost a quarter million of state aid would be used to lower their taxes.

He said the school administration team was going over the tax relief funds sent to Clinton Township by Governor Christie in July, in order to:

“…enable the district to offer better than flat taxes again [for 2012-2013], and allow us to use $247,310 to reduce the local tax levy.” [Emphasis added] — Hunterdon Democrat


Superintendent Kevin Carroll promised over half a million dollars of that state aid would be used to lower taxes:

“Even with [school choice] costs taken into consideration, the net will be over half a million dollars — and will reduce the tax burden on Clinton Township citizens.” — Superintendent Kevin Caroll, CTSD wiki, January 17, 2012


At the March 26 public hearing on the school budget, Dincuff suggested lowering the tax levy by the amount he promised, but mysteriously said he would take most of it out of the school district’s surplus and debt accounts — not out of the state aid received.

Now we know why.

They spent it all.

They just don’t know where, or exactly how much.

Clinton Township taxpayers could have had $2.8 million in tax relief — extra state aid — money above and beyond what the school board said it needed in the budget voters approved last year — aid sent to them by Governor Christie to lighten their loads.

Why didn’t Governor Christie just give the money directly to taxpayers as a rebate, rather than let the Clinton Township school board get its hands on it first?

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