Board OKs plan for budget balance

REGION 16 — The Region 16 Board of Education has approved a 2013-14 year-end budget plan that spends roughly $450,000 in projected surplus on 11 items.

Director of Finance and Business Operations Pamela Mangini presented the plan to the board, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, at its June 25. The meeting was the board’s final one before the start of the 2014-15 fiscal year July 1.

According to a financial status report, the 2013-14 school budget is projected to have a $959,000 year-end balance. The figure won’t be official until an audit is complete. Mangini said, in a subsequent interview, she’s comfortable that the balance won’t be any less and could turn out higher.

The bulk of the estimated surplus comes from savings in salaries and benefits.

The salary account is expected to end with a $280,000 balance. Mangini said the savings are a result of teacher turnover, positions left vacant for part of the year and a higher than normal number of certified and non-certified staff out on unpaid leave for family or medical reasons.

Mangini said the number of staff absences was more than 200 days above past averages.

The projected balance in the benefits account is $260,000. Unemployment compensation is projected to finish about $70,000 less than expected. Also, Mangini said, 12 staff members opted out of the district’s health insurance for half of the year, helping to lead to the savings.

Other significant savings are estimated in the other purchased services ($225,000) and professional services ($110,000) accounts.

According to Mangini the project savings in other purchased services stemmed from some special education students, who had been out-placed to other schools per their needs, returning to the district this past school year. With the students in the district, the board avoided paying tuition costs.

The projected savings in professional services is the result of the board ending its contract with Cenergistic, an energy consulting firm.

After subtracting a $500,000 carry over that will be used to offset the education costs to the towns in the 2014-15 budget, the board was left with $459,000.

A number of the items approved in the year-end plan were budgeted in the 2014-15 fiscal year, including a $130,000 loan payment for work done on the Long River Middle School roof, $6,500 for a lease payment on a new van, $14,000 for repairs to the parking lot at Long River and $12,000 to replace the carpet in one pod at Laurel Ledge School with tile.

Using the projected surplus for these items frees up $162,500 in the 2014-15 budget. Officials want to use this money to help deal with unanticipated special education costs.

Out-placed special education students retuning to schools in the district helped achieve some of the savings. However that is not expected to be the case again.

The district anticipates two or three special education students, who need to be out-placed because of their needs, above what’s budgeted for will move into the district this school year.

Mangini said the tuition costs for these students could be between $225,000 and $250,000.

“We realize we have to do something about that unanticipated expense,” board member Robert Hiscox said.

Out of the savings from ending the contract with Cenergistic, $100,000 was already earmarked to go towards roof repairs at Woodland Regional High School. Earlier this year, voters approved a $244,191 appropriation in surplus funds from 2012-13 to go towards the roof work as well.

The year-end budget plan also includes paying for items that were cut during budget deliberations over the past few years or deferred to future budget years. These items include $30,000 for digital archiving of students records, $12,500 for a third grade phonics program, $9,000 to replace the carpet in the main office at Long River and $4,400 to do paving at Woodland.

Also, $86,000 will be returned to the food services budget to be used to buy equipment. The food services budget is independent of the school budget. Mangini explained a few years ago the board took the money from food services to help pay for health insurance costs.

Mangini said the board could pay for each item on the plan with out touching the projected carry over money.

“We just felt this was an efficient use of these funds,” she told the board.

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