The tentative Special Education Budget for the Scotch Plains-Fanwood School District was presented at the Jan. 24 Board of Education meeting by Business Manager Deborah Saridaki and Special Education Director Thomas Beese.
Saridaki took the lead on the tentative special education budget presentation, the first of three budget presentations that will be presented to the public at a board meeting.
The Special Education budget makes up around 20 percent of the entire Board of Education’s budget, Saridaki said and this year the tentative amount allotted is $18,214,874.
For the 2012-2013 school year the budget for special education was $17,876,206. Beese noted that the increase is due to an increase in costs from the service delivery program, as well as additional resources based on student needs.
Also, the Special Education department receives Federal Funding that was awarded for the 2012-2013 school year in the amount of $1,104,625.
As the tentative budget was put together for 2013-2014, Saridaki and Beese noted that the Federal Aid could be significantly cut and they budgeted for $773,238. If the remaining $331,387 did not come through in Federal Aid this money would have to come from local funds, Saridaki said.
“This year because of the potential sequestration of funds it has been suggested to us that we only budget 70% of what we’ve received during the previous school year for next year,” Saridaki said.
Saridaki said that each year the costs are increasing, but the Federal Aid is decreasing.
The following is a breakdown of where the Special Education budget is allocated:
Self-Contained Classes: 1,299,133
Additional Costs for Special Education Programs: $8,136,388
Federal Aid: $773,228
The number of Special Education students for 2013-2014 is expected to be 746. Of those students 636 will be in district and 109 out of district. The amount of out of district students has been decreasing for the past five years, Saridaki stated.
Beese said that the budget also reflects the addition of one teacher in the high school and additional Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy (ABA).
The new teacher will be a part of the in-district program for the district’s sub contained students and she will be able to serve the freshman population, as well as the Junior to age 21 population.
“As that program grows, I need to break it down to two different programs,” he said.
The sub-contained program will help the older students have more community experiences and also serve as a life skill program for many of these students who were originally sent out of district.
“This is the second year we are embracing that in district and thus far I’m very pleased with what’s transpire this year and I’m looking forward to how it is going to grow next year,” Beese added.
Additionally, the ABA therapy, which serves students under the spectrum of Autism has assisted Scotch Plains-Fanwood with maintaining many students within the district. The program is showing wonderful results, Beese said.
Each month he evaluates the cost benefit and the one-on-one services are not to exceed so many hours per student.
“I have to always keep that delicate balance as advocating appropriately for the student but also making sure I’m representing the taxpayers of the community because that’s where most of this money is coming from,” Beese said.
When it was the board members turns to address Saridaki and Beese with questions, some members felt very strongly about the issue of the federal funding being cut.
“I think the requirements to provide a fair, equal and appropriate education for all students are very important and I know our district abides by them,” board member Betty Ann Boerner said. “That being said let us remember how outrageous it is that the feds are cutting the funding for this.”
On the same note, board president Trip Whitehouse said as things move forward, locally everyone will be impacted by some type of cuts.
“We’re seeing it here – these are some of the impacts that we’ll see, the school funding that will be cut,” he said. “The options are that they will be made up of local taxes or choices that will have to be made by the board as far as other programs.”
The Special Education budget proposal is tentative as of yet, the board is working on the larger budget proposals which will be presented at upcoming board meetings.
Check back with scotchplains.patch.com for more Board of Education budget coverage.