Following up Parts 1 and 2 “Reporting the Executive County Superintendent” in the last two issues of School Leader, we continue to explore the notifications and reports that boards are required to direct to the executive county superintendent (ECS).

Much of the executive county superintendent’s required oversight of school districts involves fiscal accountability. A summary of these responsibilities follows:

FISCAL ACCOUNTABILITY

Critical Policy Reference Manual, Business & Noninstructional Operations
Series 3000

N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-3.1 Review of Employment Contracts for Administrators The executive county superintendent is required to review and approve the reappointment of all superintendents, deputy superintendents, assistant superintendents, and school business administrators, including any interim, acting, or person otherwise serving in these positions. Charter schools are exempt from this requirement.

The review and approval includes:

  • New employment contracts, including contracts that replace expired contracts for existing tenured and non-tenured employees;
  • Renegotiations, extensions, amendments, or other alterations of the terms of existing employment contracts that have been previously approved by the executive county superintendent; and
  • Provisions for contract extensions where such terms were not included in the original employment contract or are different from the provisions contained in the original approved employment contract.

N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-5.2 Public Relations and Professional Services; District Board of Education Policies; Efficiency Any publications distributed by the board via mass mailings or other means to the school district community at large within 60 days before the local school board election in which any board member is seeking any elective office, or any election relating to school district operations must be submitted to the executive county superintendent for review prior to distribution to ensure public funds are being expended in a reasonable and cost-effective manner.

N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-5.3 Special Education Medicaid Initiative (SEMI) Districts and county vocational school districts may apply to the ECS for a waiver of the requirements (regarding maximizing revenue from the Special Education Medicaid Initiative (SEMI) program). This application must be made no less than 45 days prior to the submission of the district’s proposed budget for the school year to which the waiver request applies.

Each school district that has less than 90 percent participation of SEMI eligible students in the prebudget year or that has failed to comply with all program requirements must submit a SEMI action plan to the executive county superintendent for review and approval as part of the school district’s proposed budget submission

N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-5.7 (district) and 22.8 (charter school) Verification of Payroll Upon completion of the required payroll check distribution verification procedures, the chief school administrator/lead person must submit a certification of compliance to the executive county superintendent in a form prescribed by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE). Verification of the charter school’s compliance will be required as part of the annual audit.

N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-6.2 (N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-22.10 charter schools) Nepotism A school district must obtain approval from the ECS to employ a relative of a district board member or chief school administrator. Such approval shall be granted only upon demonstration by the school district that it conducted a thorough search for candidates and the proposed candidate is the only qualified and available person for the position.

N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-6.7 Financial and Human Resource Management Systems; Access Controls Whenever considering financial systems or the automation of other services or functions, the school district shall notify the ECS in writing to see if opportunities for a shared service system exist.

N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-14.1 Capital Reserve Accounts The board may increase the balance in a formally established capital reserve account with anticipated excess unreserved general fund balance by requesting approval from the ECS.

N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-16.14 Dismissal or Reassignment of a School Business Administrator The board must submit to the executive county superintendent a written justification for the non-renewal, dismissal for cause, reassignment, or elimination of the position of a school business administrator, or the individual duly certified and performing the duties of a school business administrator. The written justification must be submitted within 48 hours of the notification by the board of education to the affected employee.

N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-17.1 Tuition The board must submit contractual tuition agreements between sending and receiving districts to the ECS. The ECS mediates disputes that may arise from these agreements.

N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-19.1 Emergency Aid Requests for emergency aid must be submitted to the ECS in a detailed resolution of the board.

Tax Levy

N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-11.3 Adjustment for an Increase in Healthcare Costs A district board of education may increase its adjusted tax levy for health care costs. Health care costs include medical insurance and prescription drug insurance consistent with the coverage provided under the State Employee Health Benefits Program (SEHBP). Supporting documentation for this adjustment must be submitted to the ECS.

N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-13.1 Commissioner-Adjusted Tax Levies; Commissioner Budget Reallocations and Directives; and Transfers Transfers from line accounts that include expenditures and/or reallocations directed by the commissioner are prohibited unless approved in writing by the executive county superintendent and in accordance with N.J.S.A. 18A:22-8.1 and N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-13.3. The board must submit to the ECS written requests for transfers, including the amount to be transferred, the account(s) to be reduced, the account(s) to be increased, and the purpose and justification. Transfers cannot be requested or made prior to Dec. 1 of the applicable budget year and will only be approved for an emergent circumstance.

Travel and Reimbursement

N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-5.9 Out-of-State and High-Cost Travel Events The board must obtain prior written approval of the ECS when a travel event has a total cost that exceeds $5,000, regardless of the number of attendees, or when more than five individuals from the school district are to attend a travel event out-of-state.

N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-7.4 Travel Approval Procedures For unforeseen situations that arise when a travel request cannot obtain prior board approval, the prior written approval of the superintendent, or designee, and the ECS, or designee must be obtained before for the board can reimburse the expense.
Budget

N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-8.1 Budget Submission Annually each board must adopt and submit to the executive county superintendent for approval, together with commissioner-prescribed supporting documentation, a budget that provides for a thorough and efficient education.

N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-8.3 Administrative Cost Limits Each board must prepare and submit their proposed budget consistent to the ECS. This does not apply to for CVSDs and non-operating school districts. The board must request the approval of the ECS to exceed the adjusted (as of February 1) prebudget year per pupil administrative costs up to 2.5 percent or the CPI (whichever is greater).

N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-9.7 Defeated Budget Vote (April Election) When the budget is defeated in districts with an April election, the budget and other accompanying fiscal documentation must be submitted to the municipal government and the ECS.

N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-9.9 Restoration of Budget Reductions A board must submit an application to the executive county superintendent for restoration of reductions made by the municipal government following a voter-defeated budget. This application must be concurrently submitted to the municipal government. This application may only be submitted on grounds the reductions will negatively impact the stability of the school district given the need for long-term planning and budgeting.

N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-13.3 Budget Transfer During the Budget Year The board may transfer surplus or other unbudgeted or underbudgeted revenue between April 1 and June 30 only upon prior approval by the ECS. (Prior to April 1, the board may petition the commissioner to transfer surplus, unbudgeted or underbudgeted funds with a two-thirds affirmative vote only for an emergent circumstance).

Corrective Action

N.J.A.C. 6A:23A-4.4 Repeat Annual Audit Recommendations; Action Required School districts that had repeat audit findings in the Auditor’s Management Report must submit a specific corrective action plan within 30 days of the comprehensive annual financial report submission to the ECS for addressing the repeat audit findings noted in the auditor’s management report.

The list of instances when a district must notify an executive county superintendent is long, with more than 120 subsections of administrative code describing the continual communication between the local board and the county office. While this amount of oversight may seem overwhelming, it serves the public interest in the responsible management of the tax dollars dedicated to education and helps ensure that New Jersey provides and effective and equitable education to all its children.

For sample and model regulations or for help developing policy and regulation language to suit your needs do not hesitate to contact NJSBA Policy Services: policy@njsba.org.

Jean Harkness is an NJSBA policy consultant.

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