Education News

ANWSD surplus comes from several sources

VERGENNES — At their Nov. 15 meeting Addison Northwest School District board members contemplated how best to make use of a $1.86 million surplus a preliminary audit confirmed for the end of the 2020-21 school year.

While emphasizing they are early in their budgeting process for the 2022-23 school year, board members’ initial thoughts were to use about two-thirds of that fund balance over the next five years for a series of projects recommended by facilities director Ken Sullivan, and apply almost all of the rest of it toward keeping the projected union-wide tax rate increase to between 4 or 5 cents. (See related story.)

In explaining the sources of the fund balance, ANWSD Director of Finance and Operations Elizabeth Jennings in an email referred the Independent to her August financial report to the board — and she cited the COVID-19 pandemic as a factor in much of the reduced spending.

“Many areas of our spending were lower than budgeted and a substantial amount of those items were related to COVID, considering that our high school was in a hybrid learning combination between remote and in-person for the majority of the school year,” Jennings wrote. “I think the report from August, although long and detailed, really gives a thorough explanation of what these areas are.”

She added, “The only difference now is that our actual surplus is about $166K higher than what we estimated in that report, so the actual figures quoted would need to be updated.”

In that report Jennings cited approximate savings from this past school year of:

  • More than $600,000 in salaries and benefits for unfilled positions or for positions that were filled by less expensive personnel.
  • About $100,000 “related to COVID” by not hiring coaches, an assistant athletic director and other athletics personnel this past school year.
  • More than $60,000 in lower substitute teaching costs.
  • Almost $400,000 in savings due to fewer staff members signing up for health benefits or choosing less expensive plans, and/or not using all or their Health Reserve Accounts.
  • Approaching $200,000 less than expected in Tuition and Travel Reimbursement Benefits and professional development costs because teachers were not signing up for or traveling to courses, but taking them online, another COVID-related item.
  • Almost $100,000 in field trip transportation costs due to canceled field trips, athletic events, and outside programs, plus $51,000 by eliminating a bus route. Again, Jennings said, COVID affected most of these items.
  • About $266,000 in spending on tuition paid for students, professional and legal services, postage, printing, supplies, equipment and books.

On the revenue side, Jennings added, the district also received an unexpected $273,000 of special education reimbursement.

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