WESTMINSTER -- The Windham Northeast Supervisory Union business manager said unbudgeted salary increases in a newly ratified teachers contract and money that must be paid back to the state's education department are the biggest factors behind a six-figure deficit projected for the end of this fiscal year.
Edie Cole explained to the Bellows Falls Union High School Board on Monday that the projected deficit is $285,000, though on Tuesday she told the Reformer some cutbacks will likely decrease that figure to roughly $200,000.
The BFUHS Board met in the high school's library Monday and became the final interested party to approve a new collective bargaining agreement with all teachers in the supervisory union. According to WNESU Superintendent Chris Kibbe, the agreement includes 1 percent salary increases in the first year for educators at step 17, 1.5 percent hikes for all teachers the second year and another 1 percent jump the third. Cole said negotiations between the WNESU and the teachers' union, the Windham Northeast Education Association, had gone on for about 18 months and there was no way to know when finalizing the current year's budget that the deal would include pay increases. This has added significantly to the projected deficit, Cole said.
She also told the Reformer each school in the supervisory union was reimbursed by the Vermont Agency of Education for special education funding, but the agency's audit of the 2010-11 budget found some of the expenditures are not deemed eligible for reimbursement under state's special education funding formula. She said one example of non-reimbursable expenses was when one child received more occupational therapy than was specified in his or her individualized education plan (IEP).
Cole said the WNESU business office is now trying to figure out how to ease the blow of this projected deficit. She said the deficit will have to be made up through taxes.
"We can't make up this amount between this time and June," she told the Reformer. The fiscal year ends on June 30. "We're going to do our best to reduce it as much as possible."
BFUHS Principal Chris Hodsden said the impending ratification of the new teachers' contract indicated there would be some sort of projected deficit, though he didn't learn the specific figures until Monday. He said it is the time of year when he and other school officials typically learn of a projected deficit.
Hodsden told the Reformer he has experienced years that have closed with a surplus in the $100,000 range and he is optimistic the deficit figures can be significantly reduced.
In other business:
-- Hodsden told the Board a community organization has donated $17,000 for a new football scoreboard. He said the one used at the football portion of Hadley Field malfunctioned at the beginning of the 2013 season.
The principal said a new scoreboard will be ordered within a week. He said it will read "Home of the Terriers" on one portion, while advertisements will likely be sold to cover other sections of it.
Hodsden said the donation was not anonymous, but he preferred not to disclose the organization's name.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.