Region 16 closes out 2019-20 budget with $661K surplus

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By Elio Gugliotti, Editor

PROSPECT — The Region 16 Board of Education finished the 2019-20 fiscal year with a budget surplus of $661,286.

The surplus is roughly 1.6% of the $40.7 million 2019-20 budget for the region, which oversees public schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect. The school board approved the audit for the 2019-20 fiscal year at its Jan. 20 meeting.

Anthony DiLeone, director of finance and business operations for the region, said in a later interview that funds that weren’t spent on transportation and athletics after schools closed last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic made up most of the surplus. He said the region saved $404,539 in transportation costs alone.

How much of the surplus will be returned to Beacon Falls and Prospect is to be determined. The school board is expected to discuss transferring some of the money to its capital non-recurring account at its Feb. 10 meeting. The account is used to set money aside to pay for capital projects.

Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin said during the Jan. 20 meeting that accumulating funds in the capital account over time helps pay for large projects that otherwise would be included in the school budget and could drive up spending in a given year.

The region has about $140,000 of unencumbered money in the capital account, DiLeone said.

Excess school money is returned to the towns in the form of credits on their education payments to the region. The money is divided based on the percentage of students from each town, which for the 2019-20 school year was 63.25% Prospect and 36.75% Beacon Falls.

If $661,286 is credited to the towns, Prospect would get back $418,263 and Beacon Falls would get $243,023.

The region last school year also credited the towns a total of about $287,000 after the pandemic hit and some expenses weren’t realized.

Regional school districts are allowed under state law to transfer up to 1% of their budgets into capital accounts. In Region 16’s case, this equates to about $407,000 for 2019-20 budget.

Last October, the school board voted to transfer $186,692 from the 2019-20 budget surplus to its capital non-recurring fund. The money was used to pay off a new HVAC system at Long River Middle School that was installed last summer. The project cost about $386,000. The transfer freed up funds in the current school budget designated for the project to pay for coronavirus-related expenses.

The board could transfer up to about $220,000 more of the surplus to the capital account, which would drop the amount that would be credited to the towns to $441,268.