A one-time bailout request for the 2017-18 school budget is looking more likely by the day. That was the consensus at Monday night\u2019s Board of Education meeting, where district administrators spoke of an estimated $1.2-million appropriation request from the town that will likely be put forward at the end of March. \u201cIt has become increasingly clear that we will be challenged to land this budget on fumes,\u201d Superintendent Dr. Karen Baldwin told the board. If that appropriation is not approved, Baldwin explained, the only recourse to end the year with a balanced budget would be to start laying off staff. \u201cIn order for me to capture the savings if we don\u2019t get the appropriation \u2026 the only way to do that would be layoffs,\u201d said Baldwin. \u201cAnd that would be extremely disruptive in the last quarter, but that is what we\u2019d be up against.\u201d The district is staring down the barrel of a $1,263,757 year-end deficit, according to the superintendent\u2019s office. Baldwin enacted a budget freeze in September to avert a crisis. She told the board Monday that if the district holds back 60% of what remains in discretionary accounts, it will capture somewhere around $716,334, leaving the schools\u2019 finances a projected $547,423 in the red by year\u2019s end. Costs and savings In a three-page memorandum to the board, Baldwin highlighted five areas of concern that are driving the deficit. Those include out-of-district placements for students with high special education needs, settlements with families of students with special needs, nursing services for three medically fragile students, the hiring of three unbudgeted elementary teachers after class sizes exceeded expectations, and a higher electricity contract rate that will run power expenses around $100,000 over budget. Notably, the superintendent\u2019s report left out the $241,098 that remains in the district\u2019s plant expenses budget \u2014 used to pay for things like boiler, pump, or drain line repairs \u2014 thanks to an unexpected run of cold New England weather, which brought two weeks worth of single-digit temperatures and two water main breaks on school grounds. \u201cMaybe the winter will go away quietly, and we\u2019ll get some of that money back from plant,\u201d Baldwin said. \u201cIt\u2019s possible that we could capture some of that $200,000.\u201d Reimbursement Another possibility that could pay dividends is money coming back from the state to reimburse the district for the excess costs of particularly needful special education students. That grant was funded in the state budget passed at the end of October, the superintendent said in her report, and conversations with the state indicate the district will receive the full $1.4 million it budgeted for. Baldwin also pointed out that the district is engaged in litigation over two settlement claims with families in the district. Those should wrap up by mid to late March of this year, Baldwin said. \u201cThe cost impact is unknown; however, we proceeded to due process because we believed we had a strong case.\u201d Special education Reviewing the high number of out-of-district placements, board member Sharon D\u2019Orso asked if there could be an alternative to costly out-placements. \u201cShould we be trying to building a program to meet those needs in-house?\u201d she asked. Baldwin argued that doing so would not only incur costs but would also take years of study and hard work before it paid dividends. \u201cIt\u2019s hard to build new programs when you\u2019re tamping down and trying to contain costs,\u201d she said. \u201cIt\u2019s a perfect storm right now.\u201d Timeline Part of the challenge will be determining when exactly to go to the Board of Finance with a final number for the appropriation request. \u201cWe don\u2019t want to go too soon, because we don\u2019t know how much to ask for, because we haven\u2019t even got the December monthly figures yet,\u201d said board Chairwoman Fran Walton. \u201cBut we also can\u2019t leave it too late, because should the Board of Finance choose to not give us all that we request, we cannot end the year in deficit.\u201d \u201cAnd so our choices are extremely limited in what we can do,\u201d she added.