Ellington residents approve transfer of $150,000 for special ed needs

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This article was published on the Journal Inquirer by Erika M. Purdy on March 9, 2021.

ELLINGTON — At a town meeting on Monday night residents approved the transfer of $150,000 from the town’s unassigned fund balance account to the Board of Education so it can manage tuition and transportation costs for special education students.

The vote was unanimous, with all in attendance during the meeting at Town Hall and online via Zoom voting for the transfer of the money to the school board’s unexpected funds account.

At a Board of Finance meeting in February, Brian Greenleaf — finance director for the school board — explained that the unexpected funds account was set up to deal with unforeseen costs for special education students.

In an interview with the Journal Inquirer, Greenleaf said that the fund allows the school board to put a portion of money leftover from the annual education budget into a reserve account to be used as a “rainy day fund.”

The fund’s use is restricted, meaning it can only be used to pay for special education services.

“It helps us because we don’t have to account for unanticipated high cost students within the budget,” Greenleaf said.

Michael Purcaro, a member of the Finance Board who was formerly the school boar’s chairman, described the fund as a “budget stabilization effort” that allows the school board to provide necessary money to special education services while not putting an undue burden on taxpayers.

He explained that the school district is required by law to provide education to all students with special education needs within the area, but families can move into or out of town at any point during the year, making the exact amount of money required uncertain.

To balance this, Purcaro recommended that the school board establish the unexpected funds account so it would have reserves in the case of an emergency where the local budget has been exceeded.

Purcaro said he had established the same kind of fund in his time as the school board chairman in Vernon.

The amount of money in the fund will carry over from year to year, unlike an annual budget, Greenleaf said.

He said the fund was originally set up in 2018, but due to a variety of factors, including the search for the town’s new finance officer, the fund was not filled until now.