Error leads to $500K loss in state funds for city’s schools

By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

Bristol Public Schools business manager, Jill Browne reported to school officials that there was a $501,702 reduction of state funding due to errors in the filing of the ED-001 form.

An ED-001 form reports “all expenditure data for public preschool through grade 12 education,” according to the Connecticut State Department of Education.

“There are different schedules [in ED-001]; the schedule that has come into question is schedule 4, and that’s one related to special education expenditures,” explained Superintendent of Schools Dr. Susan Moreau.

At the June 6 meeting of the Board of Education, Browne, said “We received an adjustment… to our ED-001 report, the adjustment was… $501,702.”

Browne said a letter was received in January, saying the adjustment would “be in the BOE’s favor of $114,209”. Browne explained that this letter was sent to City Comptroller Diane Waldron. Waldron did not receive all of the funding she had anticipated, and as a result, Browne contacted the state, to find out that further adjustments had been made but no alert was sent out from the state.

The filing of 2016/2017 school year ED-001 coincided with the loss and replacement of several business managers, of which Browne is the third. Because of this, the BOE hired The Management Solutions to complete the filing process.

During the June 25 BOE finance subcommittee meeting, Browne said the BOE received 52 pages worth of adjustments to the ED-001. The adjustments were completed by TMS “after they had pulled purchase orders and invoicing for our high cost special education students.”

“We compared that 52-page compilation with what was actually filed with the ED-001 report for all of those high cost students, and those two things matched. Then we took that list of students… and we went and pulled all of the purchase orders, invoices, check numbers, and so forth, and added up everything that City of Bristol expended for those high cost students in the 16/17 school year, and there’s a $467,333 difference; we spent more than what the state is recognizing that we spent.”

Browne explained there were six students that “were high cost students that were not on the list at all.” Those students qualify for excess cost grant funding “which means that all of those students exceed the 4 1/2 times per pupil expenditure threshold number to qualify for funding.”

Moreau explained that the per pupil expenditure is close to $70,000.

“One of the things in schedule 4 is the salaries and benefits, and the line for paraprofessionals there was a zero for benefits,” said Moreau. “Now, we had side-by-side years, so we had 2015/16 and 2016/17 in the columns, so 2016/17 had no number in it and there was… slightly under $3 million in the prior year.”

Moreau explained that this caught her eye because of something called “maintenance of effort.”

“[Maintenance of effort] means you have to spend the same amount or more in the next year, than you spent in the year prior, unless you lose students,” said Moreau. “I was really looking at it with that eye, of what that could mean for us, because one other time we didn’t make maintenance of effort, if you miss it twice then it’s much more significant, there can be penalties.”

Browne reported this information at the June 26 meeting of the Board of Finance, and as of this meeting, Browne had contacted the state to explain the situation. The state wasn’t able to guarantee anything. Browne said the person she spoke with said “that they might be able to offer some relief next year.”

Board of Fiance vice chair, John Smith, with support from chair, Cheryl Thibeault, said an official notice should be sent to The Management Solution regarding the half million dollar loss. Thibeault insisted it be sent out by the end of the week.

At the July 11 BOE meeting, Moreau confirmed that the letter, referred to as “noticing”, which informs that there are questions due to performance, would be mailed on Thursday, July 12.

Browne, in the July 11 BOE meeting said the district would be contacting local legislators in the hopes of securing special legislation to help recoup some of these funds.

“It would be one of our state reps putting up what’s called notwithstanding legislation to allow us to receive the funding that we’ve been able to justify with total recreation of schedule 4, which is what Jill and the women of her office did,” said Moreau. “And she found [as she mentioned in July 11 BOE meeting] something over $467,000 worth of omissions or errors.”

This course of action has not been pursued as of yet. Moreau said that State Representative Chris Ziogas (D-Bristol) has offered, but she has yet to speak with other legislators.