Middle Country BOE reviews pupil personnel budget

Middle Country BOE reviews pupil personnel budget

Screenshot from the Middle Country Board of Education meeting video. Photo via Youtube

By Sabrina Artusa

The Middle Country Central School District Board of Education reviewed the pupil personnel budget at its March 6 meeting.

The board was transparent about the fiscal pressures facing the district and what actions they are taking to prevent them from mounting. Assistant Superintendent for Business Beth Rella included costs related to special education as a cost driver in her presentation.

“Additional high-needs students have increased significantly in the last few years,” Rella said. “The three-year cost impact is $2.25-$2.62 million.”

Jennifer Harrison, director of pupil personnel services, added, “Recently we have gotten students that transfer to us that are high-costing students. They were either in a residential program … were hospitalized or they were placed in a private program. That’s very hard to anticipate.”

Pupil personnel services focuses on helping students, particularly those identified as requiring special education, through a variety of services and interventions. 

The pupil personnel services budget for the 2024-25 school year will increase by nearly $4 million from this year. This year’s budget saw an over-$8 million increase from 2022-23. 

In addition to the budget, Harrison discussed all the resources provided by the department, including new programs, transportation and home teaching. Over 74% of the budget goes toward salary and benefits, according to Harrison.

In a chart provided by Harrison, the total number of school-age students with a disability decreased by 133 from last year. However, the needs of each student vary, and one student may require more restrictive, or expensive, services than another. 

The New York State Education Department recently redefined eligibility for special education, allowing a student to receive services until the completion of the school year they turn age 22 or they graduate high school, a decision Harrison implied may also play a role in increased spending. 

Rella gave an update on grants expiring in 2024, such as the American Rescue Plan Act summer enrichment program, which funded intervention programs for students showing signs of learning loss or are struggling. 

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act the school district secured $2,892,030 for this school year — roughly $200,000 more than the 2022-23 school year.

Regarding security measures, board member Denise Haggerty commented on a Suffolk County Police Department training session that she and several board members attended. She said, “It’s good to know that they are out there, they’re trained, they’re ready. These men and women who were there Saturday morning were fully committed to protecting our children at whatever cost it might be.”

The video of the March 6 meeting is available on YouTube. The next Board of Education meeting is on March 20.