Audit shows surplus in school budget

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REGION 16 — Region 16 officials are targeting surplus funds to continue roof repairs at Woodland Regional High School.

An audit of the 2013-14 school budget showed Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, ended the fiscal year with an approximate $1.3 million year-end balance. The audit was presented and approved at the Board of Education’s Feb. 11 meeting.

Director of Finance and Business Operations Pamela Mangini said the balance stemmed from two main factors — an unusually high number of staff on unpaid leave, and lower than anticipated costs associated with the outplacement of special education students who need services that can’t be provided in the district.

Mangini explained the $1.3 million includes $244,191 from the 2012-13 year-end budget balance that was transferred last year into a capital non-recurring account. These funds were used to repair the roof over the art wing at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls.

Since the transfer was made in the 2013-14 fiscal year, Mangini said, it counted towards the year-end balance.

After subtracting the $244,191, that leaves roughly $1.06 million. Out of this total, $500,000 will be used to pay off education expenses for the towns of Beacon Falls and Prospect this fiscal year. The school board has traditionally tried to “carry over” $500,000 annually to pay down school costs, though it is not budgeted as such.

The school board will decide what to do with the remaining $560,000 at its Feb. 25 meeting. Mangini is expected to ask the board to appropriate some of the money into the capital non-recurring account to go towards repairing the Woodland roof.

It was discovered in the fall of 2013 that parts of the roof at the school, which opened in 2001, were in disrepair, leaking in spots and will have to be replaced.

The roof over the art wing was in the worst shape and has been fixed. Temporary repairs have also been done on other parts of the roof.

The school board created a capital non-recurring account last year. State statute allows regional school districts to create a capital non-recurring account, which can only be used to pay for one-time capital expenses.

“We can’t just do what we want with it,” Mangini said.

Under state law, regional school districts can appropriate 1 percent of their budgets into a capital non-recurring account. One percent of the 2013-14 budget is $384,882. This is the figure Mangini is looking to transfer into the account to help pay for the roof repairs.

Board member Robert Hiscox called appropriating money into the account a wise thing to do.

“We set up that fund the last time around,” he said. “It was the prudent thing to do, and I think that we should continually add to that fund if we can.”

If the board decides to move forward with the appropriation, the transfer would ultimately have to be approved by the voters, likely at a district meeting. If the transfer is voted down, the money will be returned to the towns and officials will have to find another way to pay for the roof repairs.