By Curt Peterson
Smiles brightened thumbnail faces as RHR Smith Co. audit manager Samantha Ruggles reviewed the completed FY2020 Windsor Central Unified Union School District audit for the Finance Committee Monday evening.
The audit revealed a $150,000 surplus for the Supervisory Union (WCSU), Ruggles reported, which was about what chairman Ben Ford (Woodstock) said was estimated in December for WCSU and the consolidated district combined. The good news was that the WCUUSD audit also produced an unexpected surplus of $371,000 — for a total of $525,000 of unspent revenue to carry-over.
On July 1, 2020 Barnard Academy joined WCUUSD, and, with its assets, the district absorbed Barnard’s budget deficit of approximately $78,000, Ruggles said, thus, reducing the net surplus to about $450,000.
“You guys are in a much better place than you have been in the past,” Ruggles said, referring to two previous years of financial juggling and struggles caused by consolidation of the district’s school boards and budgets under Act 46.
Much of the surprise surplus resulted from reduced pandemic spending — transportation, for example, was reduced as busing costs dipped during the shutdown and hybrid remote learning.
But the surplus news was short-lived.
WCUUSD Finance and Operations Director Dan Fitzpatrick followed with results of FY2022 staff negotiations: final salary and benefit negotiations resulted in $492,661 over the FY2022 budgeted estimate, more than wiping out the FY2020 surplus.
“Salaries are higher than our budgeted amounts across the board,” Ford said. “In the future we’re going to have to set aside more money for staff increases.”
District Superintendent Sherry Sousa said negotiations ended with a 2% increase for teachers in the coming year, and 1.8% increases each subsequent year, in a three-year contract. Previously the district budget had to include a guess of the results of negotiations that hadn’t taken place.
Now, Sousa said, the administration will have a better handle on how much of an increase to estimate.
“Which is important,” Ford said, “because 80% of our budget is for the staff that runs our district.”
Fitzpatrick said there are currently about 135 teachers on staff.
Another cause of the salary increases was the raising of education and experience requirements for newly-hired faculty in pursuit of enhancing the quality of education for district students.
Ford pointed out the district has enough of a cushion to absorb the increase, including the $450,000 FY2020 surplus and a set-aside $450,000 “rainy-day fund” for Buildings and Grounds in the FY2022 budget.
A full report will be part of the agenda for the June 7 full district board meeting.