District 95 Special Education Direction Lesley Gottlinger reported at a board of education meeting last week that, due to an unexpected increase in the number of students needing alternative placements in the program, special education costs in the district would exceed their budget by an estimated $260,000 by the end of the school year.
As of March 2, Gottlinger said, the program was already $141,000 over its designated $420,000 budget for this year, and she expected at least an additional $120,000 worth of expenses in the coming months.
Most of the additional expenses, she said, were due to an increase in the number of students who need to attend alternative private schools. Out of the 150 students in the special education program, 20 attended such schools this year. Nine of those were new placements, Gottlinger said, with one student moving into the district, four students requiring new alternative placements and four others beginning formological programs. Such an increase is not something that can be predicted, she said.
“No one can predict when a child moves in who is already attending an alternative placement,” she said.
Gottlinger also said the unexpected costs were also due to increased program fees at the alternative placement schools, which have gone up by anywhere from $3 to $15 per day.
In a separate interview, District 95 Superintendent Douglas Rudig said the district would be able to meet those additional costs, most likely by pulling money out of the district’s working cash fund. At the meeting, he also noted that due to the increased costs, the district would be eligible for a greater amount of state aid to help offset the expenses.
“We will get more revenue from the state than we expected,” he said. “So, yes, expenses will be greater, but to some degree revenue will be greater as well.”
This is the second year in a row the special education program will have overspent its budget. In the 2004-05 school year, Gottlinger said, special education expenses totaled $438,000, or $58,000 more than its $380,000 budget. Although she did not explain the reasons for the extra expenses from last year at the meeting, Gottlinger, who was hired by the district in August, did note that the current budget of $420,000 was determined before it was known how much the program had overspent the previous year.
Although some board members expressed concern about the repeated underestimates in the budget, both Gottlinger and Rudig stressed that the additional expenses have been unpredictable and the estimations made in the budget are the most accurate they have available at the time.