Audit shows slight surplus for school budget

PROSPECT — The 2017-18 Region 16 school budget finished with a year-end balance of $328,887, an audit showed.

The Region 16 Board of Education, which oversees public schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, approved the audit this month.

Out of the $328,887 surplus, which is roughly 0.8 percent of the district’s $40.9 million 2017-18 budget, $300,000 was budgeted as revenue in the 2018-19 school budget to help offset expenses for Beacon Falls and Prospect, Director of Finance and Business Operations Pamela Mangini said.

Historically, the school board has tried to carry over some surplus funds, based on estimates, from one budget to the next to reduce the cost to the towns, rather than waiting until the official audit is finished and returning any surplus at that time.

The remaining $28,887 will be returned to the towns as credits to their education expenses based on the average daily membership ratio of students, which is nearly 62 percent Prospect students and about 38 percent Beacon Falls students.

The year-end balance would have been higher, but the school board set aside funds during the 2017-18 fiscal year to absorb losses in state revenue, including mid-year cuts in the state Education Cost Sharing grant to Beacon Falls and Prospect.

Mangini said the board applied $496,176 as a credit to Beacon Falls and Prospect during the 2017-18 fiscal year.

“We really did a very good job of trying to manage to our budget so that we could offset (the ECS cuts) and help the towns,” Mangini said.

Health insurance was among the areas were the board saw a savings in 2017-18. After locking in a new rate, Mangini said the board realized a savings of about $200,000 in health insurance.

Savings in salaries and special education costs were also large drivers for the balance.

Mangini said the savings in salaries came from teacher turnover and hiring new teachers at lower salaries. Also, she said, there was turnover in custodial staff and a maintenance position was vacant for part of the 2017-18 school year.

The savings in special education came from not expending extra funds budgeted for additional students who need special services that can’t be provided in the district. The board budgets extra money to cover the cost of tuition and transportation for additional special education students who may come into the district during the school year and need to be outplaced.

Mangini said the board budgeted about $1.4 million for special education tuition in 2017-18 but spent about $1.2 million. Also, she said, $80,000 for transportation of additional special educations students wasn’t fully spent.

The audit also showed a stark turnaround in the school lunch fund, which is separate from the overall school budget. The lunch fund finished 2017-18 with a surplus of about $17,000, after finishing the previous fiscal year with a deficit of about $14,000.

Keith Sullivan, a partner with Zackin, Zimyeski, Sullivan LLC, the firm that performed the audit, said the turnaround stemmed from more efficient operations.