Audit shows surplus for 2015-16

REGION 16 — An audit of Region 16’s roughly $40.5 million 2015-16 school budget showed the district ended the fiscal year with an unassigned fund balance of $1,374,000.

The Region 16 Board of Education, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, approved the audit (Audit) at its Jan. 25 meeting.

The $1,374,000 unassigned fund balance includes $700,000 that was “carried over” to the 2016-17 budget as revenue to help the towns pay for their education costs.

The school board has traditionally tried to “carry over” funds, based on projected budget balances, from each fiscal year as revenue to offset education expenses for the towns. As school officials crafted the 2016-17 budget, they originally proposed “carrying over” $400,000. That figure was increased to $700,000 to help the towns deal with cuts made by the state to the Education Cost Sharing grant, which is given to municipalities for school expenses.

The region will return the remaining $674,000 to the towns in the form of a credit on their education expenses. The $674,000 will be divided based on the 2015-16 student population ration, which was about 60.2 percent Prospect and 39.8 percent Beacon Falls.

Director of Finance and Business Operations Pamela Mangini said the budget surplus stemmed mostly from staff turnover and retirements leading the district to hire younger teachers who make less in salary. She said the region also had some savings in medical insurance and special education. The special education surplus was due to no additional special needs students being outplaced to schools outside of the district and bringing students who were outplaced back to the region, she said.

The audit also showed a major improvement in food services. Three years ago, officials said, food services was operating at about an $80,000 deficit. The audit showed food services, which is intended to be self-sufficient, ran a deficit of about $4,100 in 2015-16.

Recent school budget surpluses were a point of contention for some Beacon Falls officials who questioned the region’s practices a couple of years ago. The 2013-14 school budget ended with an approximate $1.3 million year-end balance. The 2014-15 budget finished with a surplus of roughly $1.44 million.

Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin said officials have been working to reduce overages the past several years.

“We’ve shown over the last three years that that we’ve been doing our due diligence on budgeting to what are needs are,” Yamin said.