The school district closed the books on the 2011-12 budget $142,000 in the black, despite over a million dollars in unexpected special education costs, according to a report by District Business Manager Paul Hendrickson.
The savings, some 0.18% on the $79 million voter-approved spending plan, ultimately adds to the town’s multi-year surplus referred to as the “fund balance.”
The town-side budget, the remaining $45-million of the $124-million budget, hasn’t been finally tallied, according to Town Controller Kevin Redmond.
Some $473,000 was saved on energy, largely due to the correction of a flub by Connecticut Light and Power, which announced in late 2011 that it had been overcharging the district for electricity eight years due to a mistake in their billing records. The town received a $4.3-million refund, but this money is separate from that. It is money that was not spent in the first place, but was built into the budget based on the artificially high rates the district had been paying.
Some $350,000 of that energy savings, which also includes savings from reduced heating costs after an unusually mild winter, was used to reduce the 2012-13 budget. That extra spending on books and funding a long-term retirement liability pushed those two items over budget $283,000 and $63,000.
Several items relating to special education, seen as the budget’s biggest uncertainty because it is tailored to individual needs, drew a lot of red ink.
Less special education tutoring and “homebound expense” meant a $98,000, or 57 .2%, savings in purchased services, but that was dwarfed by big over-runs.
Special education tuition was over budget some $840,000 or 49%.
Legal fees and special education services also pushed the professional services line item $493,000, or 32.5%, over budget.
Another budget item relating to special education, called “excess cost” — the amount the district has to pay to meet students’ needs before the state picks up the rest of the tab — was over budget by $610,000, or 69.4%.
The district saved a hefty $765,000 on certified salaries due to a favorable insurance settlement, greater turnover than expected, unfilled vacancies and needing fewer substitutes than expected. That represents 1.9% of the single-biggest line item in the budget.
Non-certified salaries were down $87,000, or 1%.
Transportation costs came in $56,000, or 1.1%, under budget.
The biggest overage percentage-wise was on “special projects,” which went over 709% — which works out $154,000 — for the installation of a new security camera system at the high school; a new playground at Scotland Elementary that was paid for in part by the town, schools and private donations; and parts for the Scotts Ridge HVAC system.
At the end of the year, no account is allowed to close out negative, so transfers are made from accounts that have excesses, and the rest, $142,229, gets sent to the town’s coffers.