Here's something you don't hear every day. Not only does the Waterford Board of Education anticipate ending fiscal year 2011-2012 with a balance of $271,057, the school district plans to return that money to the town of Waterford.
So how did that happen? Waterford School Superintendent Jerome Belair went over the numbers when he presented the Board of Finance with a budget status report on June 13.
On the Plus Side
The budget for 2011-2012 has a projected balance of $915,844, which has been achieved in the following areas for the following reasons:
Salaries: $313,225 (Lower than projected due to turnover, retirements, layoffs, resignations, and death.)
FICA: $123,834 (Turnover savings and overbudgeting)
Unemployment compensation: $80,742 (Some school employees who had been laid off were recalled and others found jobs, reducing claims.)
Overtime (Support staff): $36,334 (The warm winter meant there was little need for snow removal.)
Special Education tuition (public): $173,995 (Belair said the district has been much more aggressive about seeking reimbursement from the state and now reviews the individual needs of special education students on a weekly basis to make sure that the schools aren't paying for staff or services that are no longer needed.)
Special Education tuition (private): $66,858 (Belair said schools are finding ways to meet the needs of students within the district instead of paying more to send them elsewhere for services.)
Electricity: $18,926 (Warm winter weather reduced consumption.)
Reimbursements: $10,922 (Contractual obligations have been met.)
Other purchased services: $9,713 (Less need for contracted services such as pest control.)
Communications: $27,548 (Cost savings realized by increasing use of electronic communications instead of traditional mail.)
Maintenance: $24,530 (Schools are using staff rather than contractors for services such as ground or building maintenance whereever possible.)
Other Supplies: $8,656 (Reduced expenditures)
Other: $20,561 (Savings and reductions in all other accounts)
On the Negative Side
The school district expects to end the fiscal year with a budget shortfall of $644,787, which is due to unanticipated costs in the following areas for the following reasons:
Fuel Oil: $41,706 (The town guideline used to calculate fuel costs was below the market price.)
Transportation Supplies: $38,868 (The town budget guideline for this item was below market.)
Propane: $10,962 (Underbudgeted this year, although Belair said the district has sorted out the glitch and doesn't anticipate a similar problem occurring in the coming fiscal year.)
Student Transportation: $22,785 (Special Education costs, transporting students in need of services that the school could not provide.)
Other Professional and Technical Services: $120,181 (Costs incurred meeting autism needs and providing services to magnet schools.)
Liability/Student Insurance: $10,568 (Premiums increased due to history.)
Workers' Compensation: $8,932 (The school district underbudgeted for the premium.)
Unused Sick Leave: $29,083 (Paid out by contractual obligation but the amount was due to the untimely deaths of two employees this year.)
Textbooks: $120,288 (Additional math resources were needed to support new curriculum to help improve students math skills, which Belair said are an area of concern for the schools.)
Software: $23,595 (Audit compliance/antivirus upgrade and curriculum support which had previously been funded by a grant.)
Other: $23,012 (Cost overruns in all other accounts.)
The total shortfall for those standard budget line items was $446,980 but the district also incurred additional one-time only costs this year which added another $197,807 to the budget shortfall. The school district paid $183,807 to , Belair said, and spent an additional $14,000 on a health insurance bid.
What Waterford Plans to do with the Windfall
All told, the shortfall in the school budget this year amounted to $644,787. However, that was still less than the balance, so when the fiscal year ends on June 30, the school district expects to come out ahead to the tune of $271,057.
Board of Finance member Cheryl Larder couldn't help but wonder whether the unused funds were an indication that Waterford's schools have historically been overfunded. Most board members, however, took a more optimistic view.
"It's good news no matter what," said board member Mark Wiggins.
The Board of Finance also seemed to be in accord with Waterford Financial Director Rudie Beers, First Selectman Dan Steward, and the Board of Education that the balance remaining from the school budget should be used to reduce the deficit that Waterford faces in health insurance.
The town hopes to get out from under the continued threat of rising health insurance premiums by becoming self-insured. "Self-insurance has proven to be the least expensive," said Beers.
For Waterford to achieve that goal, however, the town's internal fund for health insurance needs to be back in the black. A $271,000 infusion of cash from the school budget will go a long way to making that possible.