Board of Ed reviews financials, looks to the future
The Board of Education looked at its finances from the previous school year at a meeting on Oct. 10, with an eye on this year and the near future. The ongoing budget impasse at the state level has profoundly disrupted budget procedures not just in Darien, but in municipalities across the state as funding for just about every service is up in the air.
The amount appropriated for the 2017 year was $93,847,816. As of June 30, the amount spent was $93,363,373. This leaves a year end balance of $484,443. When looking at the grand total for expenses vs. revenues, this is a net 3.12% increase since 2014-15.
The net cost to the town was $ 93,344,999. The block grant money, meaning the Education Cost Sharing grant funds which, despite the name, go the to town and not the school district, amounted to just over $406,000. The special education adjustment, part of the Excess Cost grant, was $96,134 for an overall increase of $502,000. The district had budgeted for no ECS money last year and did the same this year, as the possibility of ECS funding to Darien being eliminated was present both years.
When it comes to special education money, things are already starting to look dire. In last year, special education revenue, primarily the Excess Cost grant, was $3,142,647. This year, the number the district has budgeted is $2,590,460. This sharp drop could become even more substantial, as cuts to even special education funding seem to be on the table in Hartford. Superintendent Dr. Dan Brenner said that number is what they are using in anticipation of what is coming from Hartford.
Brenner did add that, “the tide is changing at the federal level,” and other federal money may come even as the state makes cuts. “This truly is a moving target, and it pays to be cautious” Brenner said.
The net budget number for 2017-18 is $95,874,776, an increase over the past year of about 2%. As it is, given the uncertainty with no state budget, Brenner said that, “people are being asked to hold the line wherever they can.” Brenner said that if teachers have textbooks that were set to be replaced but could maybe make it one more year, they will have to make it one more year. Any place that can survive for another year will have to do so.
“We are planning for something, we just don’t know what it looks like yet,” Brenner said, highlighting the challenge of putting together local budget reports with no state budget. The board was appreciative of the effort and understanding of having to consider a local budget in a vacuum with no state information, and thanked the administration for the thorough report and candor.