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While sharing his monthly financial report for September at the Board of Education meeting on October 17, School District Business Director Ron Bienkowski highlighted the potential of a $500,000 shortfall, and he recommended a 25 percent hold on principals’ budgets until further information is gathered.
“Usually at this time of the year I don’t make too many predictions about where I think we are going to be, because it is early in the year,” said Mr Bienkowski. “However, at this point there are a number of issues that have come forward that are going to impact financial operations for the coming year.”
The monthly report shares that expense variations are typical for this time in the fiscal year, “but pressures are exceeding what would be normal for this time of year.”
Over the summer Mr Bienkowski said 23 special education students moved into the district, and four more moved into the district since Mr Bienkowski wrote his monthly report.
“This causes changes in the instructional programming,” said Mr Bienkowski.
According to the report, paraprofessional positions were added to Sandy Hook Elementary School, Reed Intermediate School, and Newtown Middle School. However, two paraprofessional positions were “reduced” at Head O’ Meadow Elementary School.
Mr Bienkowski said the district has also had five cases end in mediated settlements since July 1.
Other unanticipated increases in spending shared in the report include $38,000 for special education transportation, athletic insurance and liability insurance (both came in about $5,000 over what was budgeted), and propane fuel for buses is projected to be about $30,000 more than expected, “due to the failure of the federal government to extend the energy tax credit for the use of alternative fuel.” According to Mr Bienkowski, the federal tax credit was available when the budget was created.
“Based on the tuition needs and the mediation needs for these youngsters,” Mr Bienkowski said, “the best estimate at this point is that we will be about $322,000 over budget in the special education tuition account.”
All of the anticipated costs come to about $500,000, according to Mr Bienkowski.
“There is no place in the budget where, I think, we could find half a million dollars,” he added.
The report also points out that the expected special education budget shortfall assumes the proposed state Special Education Grant, “that was to bring the district $1,031,481, materializes.”
Mr Bienkowski said the district should request the grant money is supported if the state’s budget is resolved.
A 25 percent freeze has been put in place on the district principals’ budgets, according to Mr Bienkowski. Interim Superintendent of Schools Lorrie Rodrigue later said that if principals need to fund something, they know they can request that item.
Board of Education member John Vouros said the school board should work to make other town boards understand during budget season that the school district has no control over special education budget obligations.
After board member Andrew Clure asked if more drastic measures should be taken with the state’s budget in question, Mr Bienkowski recommended the 25 percent freeze until further information is known and keeping the state budget concerns “in the back of our minds.”