Superintendent freezes school spending

Ridgefield Public Schools have initiated a budget freeze to stop school spending.

Superintendent Karen Baldwin told the Board of Education at its meeting Monday, Sept. 25, that the freeze was caused by several unexpected costs — including special education settlements and late teacher hires, similar to last year — and that the unanticipated spending put the district's budget into a roughly $1 million deficit. 

Baldwin said the freeze will affect “controllable accounts” — schools, curriculum, technology, building repairs, projects, and cleaning supplies. 

The superintendent said that the goal of the freeze is to recaptures some $1.1 million from the frozen accounts, or about 60% of the remaining money budgeted for those expenses.

The freeze comes after the district hired three new teachers over the summer. The public schools have four more students enrolled than projected for the 2017-18 school year.

More IEP families

Another factor impacting the budget: unplanned special education costs for students who needed to be placed out-of-district.

An additional four families moved to the district with students who had existing Individual Education Plans (IEPs, the documents the state uses to manage an individual student’s special education needs), which placed their children in out-of-district schools — at a cost to the town.

Covering the students’ private special education costs is the “obligation of the district,” according to Baldwin’s budget report.

However, the placements are “unplanned… and will impact our tuition budget significantly,” the report said.

In addition, the district had to pay settlements for five students over the summer, with four more settlements still in the pipeline “with costs unknown at this time.”