By Elio Gugliotti, Editor
PROSPECT — The cost of operating Region 16 schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic is coming in significantly less than what officials anticipated before students returned to classrooms.
School officials in late summer estimated coronavirus-related expenses could cost the region, which is comprised of Beacon Falls and Prospect, a little more than $1 million.
Officials now put the estimated cost at about $660,000, which includes nearly $271,000 that has either been spent already or billed to the district.
Director of Finance and Business Operations Anthony DiLeone said when officials were putting together the plan to reopen schools in the summer, items like personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer were more expensive. He said the market become flooded with such items, which caused the prices the drop. For example, he said, officials anticipated plexiglass shields for desks would cost about $600, but they ended up costing about $160 each.
DiLeone said some of the larger expenses so far include $24,600 for hand sanitizer and dispensers, $18,500 for hand sanitizer and $18,700 for sanitizing wipes. He said the district has bought 250 gallon-sized hand sanitizer bottles, 100 cases of gloves, 40,000 disposable masks, 300 buckets of sanitizing wipes and 60 touchless sanitizer dispensers.
DiLeone said the district also didn’t incur some anticipated expenses, including $55,000 for an additional school bus for Prospect Elementary School to meet a mandate that buses are less than 70% filled. He said more parents than expected are driving their children to school, so the district didn’t need the extra bus.
The cost for additional staff, including three additional teachers and two full-time and two part-time custodians, make up the bulk of the district’s anticipated ongoing costs of about $376,000.
Officials are hopeful that state and federal funding will cover most of the expenses, but so far the district has only received $75,000 from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, DiLeone said.
The region is also apply for reimbursement through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund. Officials project the district may be reimbursed about $435,000, though it’s unknown what the region will receive.
At its Oct. 14 meeting, the Board of Education voted to transfer $186,692 from the projected 2019-20 budget surplus to its capital non-recurring fund and use the money to pay off a HVAC project at Long River Middle School. This frees up funds in the 2020-21 budget designated for the project to pay for coronavirus-related expenses costs.
After factoring in the transfer, DiLeone said the 2019-20 estimated budget surplus is about $680,000. The surplus will be credited to Beacon Falls and Prospect after an audit of the 2019-20 budget is finished early next year.