State Payments Will Cover Most of the Deficit, Superintendent Confirms

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Bedford Superintendent of Schools Cliff Chuang confirmed on Friday that the district will receive $1,000,304 in emergency state reimbursement for special education expenses.

The allocations, detailed in a letter from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, will reduce a projected current $1.2 million budget deficit by more than 80 percent.

The sources of the money are the “extraordinary relief” and “reserve relief” components of the Commonwealth Special Education Reimbursement program. The funds are defined as “circuit-breaker relief,” the state’s special-education reimbursement system that normally kicks in the following year. Some of the impending reimbursement will be deducted from fiscal 2025 allocations.

“After reviewing the information submitted by Bedford, it has been determined that your district qualifies for both components of relief,” wrote Shannon Scully, DESE director of school business services.

Chuang advised the Select Board on Monday that he was hopeful the state relief funds would cover most of the shortfall.

He said he will seek a $150,000 Finance Committee reserve fund transfer to complete the recovery, and added that there are ongoing “cost-cutting and budget containment measures we are beginning to implement,” designed to further offset the shortfall and provide a buffer for next year.

The superintendent earlier this month acknowledged the deficit, resulting primarily from over spending in three areas of special education: transportation, out-of-district tuition, and professional support for programs in the schools. Expenses for substitute teachers also contributed to the problem.

Tuition residential charges range from $200,000 to $400,000, Chuang said, and transportation can exceed $300 per day per student for day programs.

“The price environment is very difficult.”

A reserve fund transfer to offset unbudgeted costs in out-of-district special-education tuition was an original piece of the budget formula for the current year, he noted.

The superintendent is planning a “full rundown” at the May 14 School Committee meeting, including “reporting back on internal control and systems issues.” One change will be shifting to quarterly from semiannual reporting.

“We want to ensure that the accounting systems can be double checked for accounts that might be running over,” he said.

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