TRENTON – The state Auditor reported today that while the method of calculating preschool aid in New Jersey is accurate, it found an opportunity to reduce allocations by $50 million by changing the Department of Education’s procedures.
Total preschool education aid allocations for fiscal years 2009 through 2011 were $534.8 million, $596 million, and $613.3 million, respectively, according to the state Auditor’s department.
“The components of the per-pupil rate allocation were in compliance,” the Auditor’s report stated. “However … we noted an opportunity for a change in the department’s procedures for distributing PEA (Preschool Education Aid) that would reduce current allocations by $50 million,’’ the report found.
The Auditor also said the state should do a better job of ensuring local districts enter accurate information in electronic data collection programs.
The report found that in 76 instances, there were differences between what was reported electronically and what was contained in a district’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.
In addition, the Auditor said the department identified 86 instances in which a district did not accurately calculate the amount of aid it was carrying over from one school year to the next.
Those 86 instances represented 98 percent of the total preschool aid payments distributed for school years 2008-09 and 2009-10.
The Auditor found that those 86 districts had approximately $82 million in total fund balances being carried over, of which $32 million was budgetd for school year 2010-11, leaving an unbudgeted balance of $50 million.
The audit found a variety of errors causing inaccurate balances being carried over. The Education Department depends on the accuracy of such information in order to determine total available and unbudgeted balances.
Among other things, in its response to the audit, the Education Department said it would adjust its electronic data collection program to capture accurately available and unbudgeted carry-over funds.