Budget balance eyed for supplies, projects

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REGION 16 — The Region 16 Board of Education has approved a lengthy list of items and projects that officials are hoping to tackle using a projected budget balance.

The $39.7 million 2014-15 budget for the region, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, is projected to finish with a year-end balance of about $1.37 million, Director of Finance and Business Operations Pamela Mangini said.

After factoring in the $500,000 “carryover” that is traditionally returned to the towns each year to help pay down education costs, the Board of Education is left with an estimated $870,000 to work with.

The board, at its meeting last week, gave its blessing to using the money on a list of instructional supplies, capital projects and repairs to schools. The list has dozens of items, including music equipment at Woodland Regional High School, asbestos cleanup at Long River Middle School, repairs to the gutters at Laurel Ledge Elementary School and Long River, replacing the cafeteria floor at Woodland, and work on the sprinkler system at Laurel Ledge.

Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin described the list as “aggressive.” The projects need to be completed by the end of July, he said, or the board can’t use the balance from the 2014-15 budget.

Yamin didn’t anticipate completing all of the projects on the list and expects more money to be returned to the towns, on top of the carryover.

The list is comprised of items and projects that are planned to be purchased and completed in future budgets. Yamin said completing the work now could save money in years to come.

“We’re hoping by doing this we’ll have future savings for the region,” Yamin said.

The board supported the move.

“We’re taking care of some business that we need to do, and we’re also returning money,” board member Robert Hiscox said.

In a subsequent interview, Mangini said the projected year-end balance stems from three main areas of the budget — salaries, health care and special education.

About $500,000 of the projected balance comes from salaries. Mangini said the district experienced turnover last summer and replaced a number of older, more expensive teachers with younger, less expensive teachers. She added the IT department was reorganized in September, which yielded savings, as well.

The board is expected to save about $370,000 under health care, Mangini said, because fewer employees than anticipated took the district’s health care.

An estimated $300,000 in savings is expected to come from the special education budget. The majority of the savings comes from the district no longer paying for two students who needed to be out-placed for special services the district couldn’t provide. Mangini said one student moved out of the district and the other was able to come back to school in the region.