The needler in the haystack.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

School Aid: 2010 and 2011 (proposed) compared

Figuring out state aid comparisons is so simple!
With Maria (see here) and Olddoc (see here) keeping an eye on Plainfield's school budget (Renata does not discuss Board of Ed BUSINESS on her personal blog), I usually leave it to them to do the digging and reporting.

However, since the vast bulk of the school budget comes from state aid, and Gov. Christie's proposed FY2012 budget INCREASES state aid to most school districts, including Plainfield, I thought to do a simple comparison from the state documents for last year and the proposed budget to see where the increment comes in.

'Simple' comparison? Not on your life.

Going to the State's website, it was easy to find the PROPOSED state aid figures for 2011-12 (see here).

Getting last year's numbers was another matter altogether. After mucking about on the website for a few minutes and not finding anything, I did a search for '2010-11 State Aid', exactly matching the term under which the propose aid is found, except of course for the years. The search returned 11,071 results (see here), ranked by relevancy, with my desired document coming in NINTH, after items going back as far as 2003-04. Guess what, someone changed the file naming protocol since last year. Go figure!

Opening the documents and printing out the Plainfield page should give me an apples-to-apples experience, right?

Guess again. The two years do not line up exactly, as you can see from the table below (links to the data are at the end of this post).

Equalized Aid
Educational Adequacy Aid
Choice Aid
Transportation Aid
Special Ed Aid (no line in 2010)
Preschool (no line in 2011) 0
Security Aid (no line in 2010) 1,862,131
Other Aid (no line in 2011) 0
Adjustment Aid 0

First off, PRESCHOOL AID is not included in the 2011-12 proposal (which truthfully advertises itself as covering 'K-12'), but is in the previous year. If it has not been cut, as Maria says, you can't figure it out from this data set.

Next up, I noticed that the
2011-12 proposal includes over $4M for 'Special Education Aid' and nearly $2M for 'Security Aid'; with  no corresponding line items in the previous year's aid data.

Last year's aid also included a line of over $9M in 'Other Aid', with no comparable line in the proposed data.

2011-12 proposal and Maria both cite the difference as an increase of $1,245,342 for the upcoming year.

That is, in fact, the difference between the figure for last year shown in the
2011-12 proposal, $94,378,350, and 2011-12.

But you'd never figure it out from looking at LAST YEAR'S AID DATA SET (see here), where no such number can be found or interpolated.

So, is it on purpose that we aren't given an apples-to-apples picture year over year?

In the 'Boardwalk Empire' state?

Are you serious?!

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

It is laid out the same way the Plainfield budget is laid out. Hard to find information that you would think is simple. For example, want to know someone's salary including benefits and pension? Need to look in 3 different places for the number and then calculate the percentage.

Seems like that's how government works. Keep them confused, they will be frustrated and not bother us. NJ is around 48th in worst taxed states. Seems like it's working, and we keep voting the same fools in.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dan- I don't know if you saw the link below, but if you search for a specific district, it has the amount of aid last year at the very top and the new amount at the bottom with the calculation of the difference. Hope that helps!!

Anonymous said...

Dan, I read your blog to get to the truth. Any word on the superintendent search?