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Mohawk to tighten belt for $250,000 extra SPED costs

BUCKLAND — Faced with an unanticipated $250,000 increase in special education costs for the coming school year, the Mohawk Trail Regional School District superintendent told the school committee he will first try to find the money within the recently adopted school budget, rather than going back to member towns to either ask for more money or for their approval to spend more of the district’s Excess-and-Deficiency revenue surplus.

Mohawk Chairman Robert Aeschback said school principals reported in May new enrollments of special needs students, including the enrollment of two special needs pre-schoolers who will need one-to-one aid.

The additional money is needed to pay for six full-time school aides, one special education teacher, and a part-time guidance counselor.

Superintendent Michael Buoniconti asked for, and got permission, to start the school year “in debt.” This way, the school system could avoid laying off some special education classroom aides this spring — as was planned for in the budget — and then trying to rehire them for fall.

Mohawk’s budget subcommittee recommended letting Mohawk begin the school year over-budget. This is the first time this has ever happened in Buoniconti’s eight years as superintendent.

In a later conversation, Buoniconti said school Business Administrator Joanne Blier is looking for potential savings in Mohawk’s $17.3 million budget that could be used for the special education costs. For instance, said Buoniconti, the school district has locked in a better heating oil price than what was expected when the budget was drafted. Also, insurance coverage costs appear to be less than what was budgeted, he said.

“We’re going to go into the (school-year) in deficit, with the intention of operating as efficiently as we can, without touching programs,” he said.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
dbronc@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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