Deficit turns into surplus

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REGION 16 — Two weeks after Region 16 school officials thought they were facing a possible $200,000 hole in their budget, that figure has flipped 180 degrees.

On Oct. 10, Director of Student Support Services Lynn Cox came before the Board of Education and reported that six students, who need to be outplaced, the district didn’t account for in the budget moved into the district during the school year.

Students who have special needs, such has a physical or mental handicap, that require more specific programs than a school district can offer are outplaced to specialized schools and the district they live in covers the costs. If a student or multiple students who need to be outplaced move into a school district during the school year, the district  they move into becomes responsible for paying for their education.

The cost for outplacing students is much higher than the cost of a regular education student. Districts receive reimbursement through the Excess Cost Grant for outplaced students, but not until the expense reaches a certain threshold.

At the Oct. 10 meeting, Interim Business Manager William Stowell said the preliminary estimate is the budget had a net deficit of $200,000 due to the new special education students.

After looking deeper into the budget, Superintendent of Schools Tim James said last week the budget actually has closer to a $200,000 surplus.

“We’re really looking at about a $200,000 surplus,” James said. “But, we’re aware special education can change the next minute.”

James said the examination found that one outplaced student no longer lives in the district, so Region 16 is not responsible for that cost anymore, and there were some regular education positions double budgeted.

In one instance, James said the salary of one staff member is being paid partially through a grant, but was budgeted as a full salary. Also, James said, the budget included two separate salaries for a music teaching position at Woodland Regional High School and Long River Middle School, when the position actually splits time between the schools.