Due to an unexpected increase in students needs and cost of outplacements, the South Windsor Board of Education’s special education budget is running at a $611,000 deficit as of the end of 2012, according a school official.
Director of Finance and Operations Chris Chemerka said at the school board’s meeting Tuesday evening that, based on a review of the major special education budget areas over the last five years, about 8 percent of South Windsor students are identified as special education.
The total cost of outplacements during the last five years has increased about 45 percent, and the cost to the school district to support magnet school students who are in special education programs has increased by 100 percent, according to Chemerka.
But state reimbursement of excess costs has be reduced over the last five years from 100 percent to 75 percent last year, Chemerka said.
“We get stuck in an ever-widening gap,” school board Chairman David Joy said.
In response to the shortfall, the school board, in a 7-0 vote, approved transferring $247,986 from an unallocated personnel account balance to an unallocated program account.
Joy noted that the Town Council, at its meeting on Monday, approved establishing a non-lapsing account for the school board for the purpose of saving up to 1 percent of the school district’s budget to offset spikes in special education costs.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kate Carter noted that, given the realities of the current budget, it may be some time before the school district takes advantage of that account. However, in future years, the account will serve a valuable purpose in mitigating situations such as the one that the school board finds itself now with the special education budget.
Joy also noted that the cost of special education “outstrips” the budget projections.
“It’s a spiraling cost we all should be concerned about,” said Joy, noting that there was a time not too long ago when it was nearly unheard of for an individual special education outplacement to cost over $100,000. Now, the most expensive special education outplacement costs $200,000, Joy said.
“It makes you wonder where it’s going to end,” he said.