Special education, health insurance costs higher than expected for Ridgefield schools

Ridgefield Public Schools have spent, or are obligated to spend, $92.4 million out of its $95-million 2018-19 school budget, according to the January financial report to the Board of Education.
The schools are on track to spend the entire $95 million, according to the report, which is submitted monthly by Business Manager Dawn Norton.
Costs for special education, legal counsel, and health and dental insurance are tracking higher than expected. Energy costs, for both electricity and heating oil, came in at lower rates than the schools budgeted.
The big question is how much money the schools will get back from the state for special education costs. 
Under the excess cost reimbursement grant, the town gets money back from the state for any money it spends over 4.5 times the cost of a typical student to educate students with special education needs. Last year, the schools received $1,300,015 from the state. This year they’ve budgeted for $1.4 million in reimbursement.
Chairwoman Margaret Stamatis noted at the Feb. 25 meeting that last year the schools had spent or obligated 97.9% of its budget by the same time, and was under a budget freeze.
Norton said the freeze applied to any spending that wasn’t covered “in your normal contractual operating expenses.”
“Departments or locations gave up funds, and said that they would not spend [the money] that fiscal year … so the 97%, it’s about the same operating process as last year,” she added.