School district looking at potential financial problems

Winsted Town Seal
Winsted Town Seal

WINSTED — The Winchester School District may be facing tight finances due to the predicted loss of state funding for Fiscal 2021-2022, according to Superintendent of Schools Melony Brady-Shanley.
Brady-Shanely discussed the potential budget situation at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Monday, Jan. 19.
She said that the school district is currently in its fifth and final year for Commissioner’s Network funding from the state.
The funding started in June 2015 after the state’s Department of Education put the school district under receivership.
The receivership, which included state oversight of the school district’s finances, programs, and operations, lasted until August 2017 when the town took back control of the school district.
However, for each of the past five years, the state has given funding from the Commissioner’s Network to the school district.
At the meeting, Brady-Shanley said that the school district will be losing $450,000 in funding due to the loss of state Commissioner’s Network funding.
She added that the district is expecting a decrease in an amount in carryover grants, along with state and other various grants, which is forecasted to be a total $578,451 loss of revenue for Fiscal 2021-2022.
“I just want to be clear with everyone that over the course of the past three years, to the school year 2020, we were around $24 million in terms of financing,” Brady-Shanley said. “At Fiscal 2021 we were at $23,097,000. We are projecting for Fiscal 2022 to be about $22,519,000. For the past three years, we have been seeing a decrease in budget revenue of about $1.6 million. We have been able to sustain that, but as I have said leading up to this year, that is no longer sustainable and we will not be able to continue to do that.”
Brady-Shanley said that any shortfalls in school budget funding would mean cuts to school staffing and programs.
“It will impact children,” she said. “One thing we are anticipating is our enrollment to stay steady. We are looking at potential increases because we have had a significant number of families, about 30, who are on home instruction this year. They have enrolled in-home instruction because of Covid. We expect most of the families to come back.”
Brady-Shanley said that, in the next few weeks, she would be able to provide a definitive estimate of a potential budget increase the school district would be seeking.
She added that The Gilbert School, which educates the school district’s 7th through 12th-grade students, is planning to make a significant amount of capital improvements in Fiscal 2021-2022. However, Brady-Shanley said that she would not know about Gilbert’s budget requests until some time in March.
Meanwhile, Brady-Shanley said that the school district will continue to lease St. Joseph Parish on Oak Street, the former location of St. Anthony School, for the next school year.
In September, the school district started to lease the former school building from the Parish, paying it $72,000 for this fiscal year.
The district is leasing the building to assist with social distancing during the pandemic.
“Right now we are [planning to lease the building again] because teachers will not be able to get vaccinated anytime soon, and students under 16 will not be getting vaccinated,” Brady-Shanley said. “We know that going into next year, there will still be a need for social distancing, especially with our youngsters. We also have a percentage of our staff members who are unable to be vaccinated due to compromised health situations. It will be a necessity.”

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