Milford schools cover $253K budget deficits

Milford Public Schools

Milford Public Schools

Contributed photo / Contributed Photo

MILFORD — The school system took moves to balance its budget books this week.

The Board of Education approved transferring funds from eight accounts with surpluses to cover shortfalls in other areas that had a combined deficit of about $253,000.

“We come before you to ask for these transfers to balance the books,” said Milford Public Schools Chief Operations Officer James Richetelli. “Everything has to tie out, and these are the transfers that we need to cover the amounts that are in deficit and where those dollar amounts can come from. We took money from where there was a surplus in the account.”

More than $43,000 was transferred from the worker's compensation insurance account. Richetelli said they negotiated a new rate after the budget was set last year and were able to get better rates, which gave them a surplus. He added that about $46,000 was transferred from the unemployment compensation account.

“There was very little unemployment,” said Richetelli. “As you know, we had a labor shortage. So there were very few people that were on unemployment, and thus the surplus from that account.”

Richetelli said they resumed field trips in March, but for a large part of the year, there were no field trips which gave the account a surplus of about $16,100.

Nearly $31,000 was taken from the telecommunications account, which had a surplus because of a reimbursement MPS received. Another $592 was taken from the non-instructional supply account, and nearly $1,880 from the student activities account — all used to help cover the other shortfalls.

The last three accounts that had a surplus were connected to tuition and totaled more than $70,700.

“All of these we budgeted for the typical amount of students that are either allowed in the program or typically go into the program,” said Richetelli. “We believe because of the pandemic, more students decided to stay in Milford Public School than risk going into New Haven or Bridgeport. And so the number of students was down at each of those programs. So we didn’t have to pay as much tuition for them.”

There was a nearly $5,100 deficit in home-bound tutoring, which Richetelli said was due to the number of students that required home-bound tutoring for various reasons throughout the year.

MPS had a deficit of about $100,000 in the retirement account.

“We had 16 teacher retirements, and we normally budget for 18, so we had slightly less there,” said Richetelli.

However, Richetelli pointed out, that there was a significant number of custodians, maintenance employees, secretaries and paraeducators who retired this year.

“The main reason is that health insurance changes in the contract,” he said. “We talked to the board when you ratified the contracts that we were moving employees off of the traditional PPO and into the HDHP programs, and this year in their contracts, they either had to go to the new program or pay the difference between the two, which is extremely expensive. So rather than do that, some of the employees were of age and didn’t want to change their health insurance, so they decided to retire.”

Richetelli said they went over the funds they had budgeted for in the legal accounts resulting in a deficit of nearly $12,400 in the negotiation services account.

The largest deficit was in the heating and natural gas utility account, coming in at nearly $136,000.

“The total deficit for utilities this year was $343,169, but you transferred another amount previously, but to close out the books, we need an additional $135,622,” said Richetelli. “We are now locked in on natural gas and electricity moving forward, so we believe we have budgeted properly in the 2022-23 budget.”