Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union administrators expect at least two of the three districts it comprises to end the 2020-2021 school year with budget surpluses, according to projections shared and discussed at recent board meetings.
The Taconic and Green Regional School District, which serves nine towns in the Manchester-Dorset area, is expected to end the school year with an estimated general fund balance of $770,000, according to board documents.
“It’s a healthy surplus right now, but it’s still very early,” Sue Wilborn, business manager at BRSU, said during the T&G board’s Nov. 3 meeting.
Factors that could impact that projection by the time the current fiscal year concludes at the end of June include potential changes by staff members to their levels of health insurance coverage and “what happens with COVID for the rest of the year,” Wilborn said.
“We would expect that if COVID continues through the remainder of the school year that there will be some savings in programs that we just can’t run,” including the after-school program, which is currently not operating, Wilborn said.
Whether and how soon the district is able to fill several open staff positions will also affect the current budget projection, Wilborn said.
Although the district’s $33.5 million approved budget included an expansion of the its pre-K program through increased payments to private providers, Wilborn said that because of the coronavirus pandemic “we have a huge reduction in the number of kids that are at our private providers.”
Accordingly, Wilborn currently projects that the budget’s pre-K and early education line will end up totaling $643,865, rather than the pre-pandemic figure of $949,719.
The district also ended the 2019-2020 school year with a budgetary surplus. Voters this past March authorized a transfer of that surplus — estimated at that time to be just under $510,000 — to a tax stabilization reserve fund for future use. But, at least partly due to the coronavirus pandemic and the resultant shift in March to distance learning, the surplus ended up being significantly larger than anticipated — about $1,271,989, according to a fund balance summary in this month’s board packet.
Because of school closures during the final third of the previous school year, the district realized “significant savings” in areas including supplies “that would only be purchased to support schools while operating,” professional development and substitute teaching, according to board documents for its Oct. 6 meeting.
Administrators are also projecting a smaller surplus for the Mettawee School District, which serves the towns of Rupert and Pawlet.
As of Nov. 6, Mettawee is expected to end the current fiscal year with a general fund balance of $122,000, according to board documents. The district’s approved budget totals about $5.9 million.
The surplus largely stems from the previous school year ending with a smaller-than-anticipated deficit — $34,000, rather than the originally expected $157,000, according to board documents.
The projected surplus “will fluctuate as we move through the year and fine tune anticipated costs and revenues, especially as they relate to special education,” Wilborn wrote in a memo to the board. “As the year progresses we’ll determine how our federal grant funds will be used to support COVID-19 after December 31st and whether we will incur costs in programs and activities such as the after school program and enrichment.”
The Mettawee district saw savings last school year in some of the same areas as T&G, according to board documents from October.
The Winhall Town School District, the third district that makes up the BRSU, is expected to discuss budgetary projections for its present school year at its Nov. 17 meeting.