Thursday night, Kathy Vallone, Waterford’s director of special education, said that Waterford will receive $105,418 less in state funding for the 2013-14 school year because of a cut by the state.
“That’s significant,” Vallone said.
Waterford, like all other municipalities, receives state funding through an excess cost grant for special education students with severe needs that require expensive placements. The excess cost grant kicks in on special needs students that cost 4.5 times more to educate in a year than a traditional student, or around $64,000, Vallone explained.
Before, Waterford and all other municipalities received an 80 percent state reimbursement on special needs students once they passed that $64,000 threshold. For example, if a special needs student was in a school that charged $100,000 a year, Waterford would be reimbursed 80 percent of the cost above $64,000. That means the town would receive $28,800 for that particular student.
However, the state is facing a budget deficit this upcoming fiscal year, and lowered that grant to 70 percent reimbursement. That means for the same student costing $100,000 a year, the state would only contribute $25,200.
Overall, the cut means the state will be giving Waterford $105,418 less in funding next year, Vallone said. That number could change, as it depends on the amount of special needs students and they could move in or out of the district before the start of the 2013-14 school year, she said.
Superintendent Jerome Belair said he was told by state officials to expect that 10 percent decrease. However, the actual number has not been finalized because the state's budget has not yet been finalized.
“It is a wild card,” Belair said.
Students with severe special needs are often placed in out-of-district schools that are equipped to handle those needs, Vallone said. Some of those placements can cost upwards of $200,000 a year, she said.
Waterford is trying to retain more special needs students in the district by having more intervention programs and the district is even starting an autism program next year, Vallone said. Not only is that cheaper, but it also allows special needs students to stay within their hometown school district, Belair said.