Region 16 facing early budget deficit


REGION 16 — A little more than a month into the school year, the Region 16 Board of Education finds itself with an estimated $200,000 hole to fill in its budget.

The deficit stems from unanticipated costs associated with special needs students who have moved into the district. 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 with the district they live in covering 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 situation is a fluid one that all school districts deal with.

Director of Student Support Services Lynn Cox told the Board of Education last week that six students, who need to be outplaced, the district didn’t account for in the budget have moved into the district.

“We are in a dire situation,” said Cox regarding the unexpected costs.

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.

Superintendent of Schools Tim James explained the cost must reach four and half times that of educating a regular education student and districts are reimbursed 80 percent of the cost above that threshold.

The cost of educating a regular education student in Region 16 is between $11,000 and $12,000, James said. Using the $12,000 figure, the expense of outplacing a student would have to reach $54,000 before the district becomes eligible for reimbursement.

The school board budgeted $150,000 for two extra students moving into the district, according to officials. But, after factoring the extra money and the reimbursements, Interim Business Manager William Stowell said the preliminary estimate is the budget has a net deficit of $200,000.

“My immediate reaction is that we’re close to $200,000 in the hole,” Stowell told the board.

The school board directed James to come up with a list of adjustments to fill the anticipated budget hole.

“We all know this could happen and it happened. It is what it is,” board member Robert Hiscox said.

In a subsequent interview, James said he will comb the budget with the help of Stowell to find the necessary adjustments and everything’s on the table. James said he will present his recommendations to the board at its Nov. 14 meeting.