Saturday June 22, 2013

ZEKE WRIGHT

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union board members approved supplemental assessments to member school districts for administrative and special education lines overspent in fiscal year 2013.

The additional assessment for administrative services -- billed proportionally to member districts -- equaled $158,000, while the "direct bill" assessment for special education costs totaled an additional $315,000.

The special education costs, which are partially reimbursable, directly relate to additional expenses in the current school year at each member district (save Woodford, which saw its special education needs decline over the course of the year).

The administrative assessment stream was overspent through a combination of legal and administrative costs; partly because of two due process hearings, and also an investigation into staff misconduct prompted this past February and costs including severance related to the unplanned retirement of the supervisory union’s special education director, Kathleen Buck, earlier this month.

Actions over several months

"It’s been actions that have been taken over the past few months that have gotten us (to this point)," Business Manager Richard Pembroke told board members. Not representative of the total of those unexpected expenses, "this is the amount that we didn’t have enough money in the budget to cover," Pembroke continued.

While some board members requested a detailed breakdown of where the overages occurred, administrators gave the impression the assessments were pressing and should be acted on Thursday evening, and certainly before the end of the current school year June 30.

"I’d like to see something that summarizes this $158,000, instead of having to wander through this budget status document," North Bennington representative Raymond Mullineaux said. The budget status report itself, included in board members’ packets and posted online, was incomplete and cut off at page 15, but Pembroke said he would compile the requested breakdown for a special SVSU meeting next week on June 26.

The business manager said his hands had been hamstrung and the costs were just becoming known. "This is the best I can do with the cards that have been dealt."

"You’re not authorizing the expenditures, they’ve already been spent." Pembroke said the alternative to approving the supplemental assessment would be to deficit spend, resulting in a much more expensive assessment in fiscal year 2015.

As the Mount Anthony Union school board had not yet been formally notified of the pending supplemental assessment for special education overages there -- totaling $175,000 -- that assessment was made contingent on that board’s approval.

The fiscal year 2013 budget for the supervisory union stood at $13.383 million when approved by the board in December 2011.

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