Town Meeting Adopts Special Education Stabilization Fund

March 27, 2024

Bedford Superintendent of Schools Cliff Chuang’s proposed stabilization fund for unbudgeted special education costs reached fruition on Tuesday night when Annual Town Meeting approved its establishment.

Voters also approved $300,000 to seed the fund. The money ultimately will come from free cash.

Select Board member Dan Brosgol, who was on the School Committee when the proposal was developed, told Town Meeting that for the past few years, the School Committee has relied on inflated Finance Committee reserve funds to cover any unexpected charges for out-of-district tuition and transportation.

“The Finance Committee and School Committee would prefer not to use that mechanism moving forward,” he said. 

Chuang proposed creating the fund last fall, noting recent enabling legislation. He originally wanted to allocate $950,000, close to the statutory ceiling of two percent of the operating budget.

Brosgol said the fund “allows money to flow from various sources and stay out of the base budget.” Besides free cash, he said, surplus education funds could be diverted to the account.

“Districts have a hard time predicting the costs of special education,” School Committee Chair Sarah Scoville told Town Meeting. Mid-year out-of-district tuition and transportation charges, sometimes exceeding $1,100,000, “can throw off the equilibrium of a budget,” she said. “This will be a transparent safety net to cover these unexpected costs.”

In answer to a question from Steve Steele, Brosgol said that under state law, the Select Board and School Committee are authorized to approve expenditures from the fund, after consultation with the Finance Committee.

He noted that if unforeseen costs exceed $300,000, the School Committee will have to again apply for a reserve fund transfer.

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