Surplus funds eyed for capital account

The Region 16 Board of Education is seeking to appropriate $244,191 of unreserved year-end funds into a new capital non-recurring account to replace the roof over the art wing at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. –FILE PHOTO

The Region 16 Board of Education is seeking to appropriate $244,191 of unreserved year-end funds into a new capital non-recurring account to replace the roof over the art wing at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. –FILE PHOTO

REGION 16 — When Region 16’s proposed budget goes to a vote, the voters will have more than one decision to make.

The proposed $39.7 million 2014-15 spending plan for Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, is scheduled to be voted on at a district meeting May 5 at 7 p.m. at Woodland Regional High School in a paper ballot vote.

Aside from the spending plan, the Board of Education will also ask for the voters’ approval to appropriate $244,191 of unreserved year-end funds into a new capital non-recurring account.

The budget and the appropriation will be voted on separately; one can pass or fail independent of the other.

The board created a capital non-recurring account in February. State statute allows regional school districts to create the account, which can only be used to pay for one-time capital expenses. The funds in such an account can not be used to cover ongoing budgetary expenses. 

There are currently no funds in the account. The $244,191 eyed for the account would come from surplus funds from the 2012-13 fiscal year. An audit of the 2012-13 budget showed the district finished the fiscal year with an unreserved year-end balance of $744,191. 

The board historically has tried to “carry over” funds from one budget year to the next to offset the education costs for each town. The money isn’t factored into the budget as surplus. Rather, a year-end balance is projected in March and that projection is then factored into the following year’s budget as revenue to reduce the net education expenses for the towns.

Out of the $744,191 balance from the 2012-13 budget, $500,000 will be returned to the towns and used to pay for education expenses this year.

“We are in no way shorting the towns any of the carry over money that we projected,” Director of Finance and Business Operations Pamela Mangini said.

The surplus stems from lower than expected expenditures and higher than anticipated revenues.

Mangini said there was a savings of about $50,000 in special education out of district transportation costs, an unexpected credit of roughly $60,000 for the district’s telephone costs and a savings of about $70,000 in unemployment insurance.  

The district also saw a savings of about $280,000 due to staff turnover, which enabled the board to hire younger, less expensive teacher, and some staff being on unpaid leave for medical reasons, Mangini added.

The district’s revenues came in about $240,000 higher than expected in 2012-13, according to Mangini. The bulk of that figure, about $200,000, came in the excess cost grant reimbursement from the state, she said. The grant helps pay for special education students that need to be placed in schools out of the district due to their needs.

Regional districts are allowed to put up to 1 percent of their budgets into a capital non-recurring account each year by state statute. However, that is not the plan right now for Region 16, Mangini said.

Officials already have a project in mind for the $244,191 — replacing the roof over the art wing at Woodland — if the appropriation is approved.

Officials discovered last fall that parts of the roof at the school, which opened in 2001, were in disarray, leaking in spots and will have to be replaced.

According to a copy of the roof analysis report, the leaks and deterioration appear to be related to one or more installation errors, such as roofing nails being visible between slots of shingles, or nails that are rusted and loose, allowing water to enter.

The statute of limitations on the roof has expired.

To date repairs have been made on all three roofs at Woodland to deal with the leaks that have developed over the years, Director of Facilities Dave Langdon said.

The roof over the school’s art wing was in the worst shape.

Langdon said the most extensive repairs to the roof were made over the art wing last fall to get it through the winter until it can be replaced. The roof over the art wing has held up fine so far since the repairs, Langdon said.

The board was originally considering bonding money to replace the portions of the roof that need it. However, the only part targeted for replacement now is the roof over the art wing. Officials are looking to put off replacing the other roofs for a couple of years until the district will be eligible for some reimbursement from the state on the work.

“This [the art wing] is the only roof that needs replacing now as the other two roofs that had repairs done to it will hold up fine until we can get state reimbursement to defray the cost to replace those roofs in the future,” Langdon said.

To help insure the other two roofs hold up, Langdon has instituted a maintenance program to inspect the roofs quarterly and after any major wind and rain storm.

Officials want to use the surplus funds to pay for a new roof over the art wing to avoid bonding the money for the repairs.

“We’re trying to be fiscally responsible,” Mangini said.

School board Chair Donna Cullen said the board is disappointed it has to replace the roof to begin with. But after much discussion, she said, the board feels this is the best way to replace it.

“The roof has to get done,” Cullen said. “To us this is the best way to get it done.”

If the appropriation fails, the district can not keep the money, and it would have to be returned to the towns. The board would then have to find another means to pay for the roof repair.  

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