Lakewood Update and "Correction"

A few weeks ago Lakewood Public Schools announced that it had a $4 million hole in its budget, primarily due to the costs of busing 25,000 private Jewish day school students to 96 yeshivas. In fact, $20.1 million, about 20% of Lakewood’s annual budget, pays transportation costs. The Asbury Park Press broke the story and I have an analysis at WHYY’s Newsworks.

But wait; there’s more. Last Thursday, at its regular monthly public meeting, the Lakewood School Board voted to rescind its decision to plug part of the hole by borrowing from surplus accounts. The rescission was necessary because the State is required to approve the transfer and Lakewood never asked. The Board did approve a resolution to request the state’s permission.

Also at the meeting Superintendent Laura Winters gave a powerpoint presentation on Lakewood’s budget process and tried to backtrack from the previous month’s meeting when the budget shortfall was revealed. According to the powerpoint available at the district's website, “overly cautious staff raised a concern about enrollment numbers based on annual projections, prior to verification.” However, Winters noted, “The comment about a potential $4 million shortfall is incorrect.”

So how big is the hole? Winters lists the areas where the district is over-budget: $600K in insurance premiums, $600K in substitute teachers, $1 million in special education, and $1 million in transportation.

So she’s right. The hole is not $4 million. It’s $3.2 million.