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Little Ferry Fears Ridgefield Park Shortfall Will Affect Tuition

The Ridgefield Park school district has a shortfall of $1.5 million in its approximately $35 million annual budget, and must file a corrective plan with the state education department.
The Ridgefield Park school district has a shortfall of $1.5 million in its approximately $35 million annual budget, and must file a corrective plan with the state education department. Photo Credit: NJ Multiple Listing Service

RIDGEFIELD PARK, N.J. -- The Ridgefield Park school district has a budget shortfall of $1.5 million for 2015-2016, and must submit a corrective plan to the state Department of Education showing how it's going to reduce expenses before the end of the budget year June 30.

Rich Vespucci of the state Department of Education confirmed Tuesday that the Ridgefield Park shortfall exists, and spending must be modified to meet the budget.

“Every district in the state has to have a balanced budget,” Vespucci told Daily Voice. “It’s illegal to overspend.”

It’s not unusual for districts to run short occasionally, and “they have between now and the end of June to effect economies," he said.

Vespucci said Ridgefield Park will have to examine all its non-classroom spending, but “they have quite a bit of time” to come up with savings.

Little Ferry schools Superintendent Frank Scarafile told Daily Voice that his district received a notification of the shortfall by letter, but it didn’t spell out what caused the shortfall or how the gap is going to be closed.

Little Ferry is apprehensive, Scarafile said, because “we don’t want the budget gap is be cured by increased tuition from Little Ferry.” Little Ferry is a sending district and is paying $11,700 per high school student. The two districts have to agree to a tuition figure, Scarafile said.

As to what caused the shortfall, phone calls and an email to Ridgefield Park Superintendent Eric Koenig weren’t returned by press time. Scarafile said the district took over St. Francis school this year, and that has added costs to the budget. But he stopped short of saying it was due to the new building.

“My students go there for high school, and my chief concern is to make sure they get the services they deserve,” Scarafile said.

Vespucci said because Ridgefield Park is operating at a deficit, the district must file a corrective action plan with the county office of education, indicating how it will achieve a balanced budget by the end of the fiscal year June 30.

As to increased tuition payments by Little Ferry, it’s “impossible to say” at this point whether the tuition will be affected, Vespucci said.

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