The special education costs are increasing in Marblehead Public Schools (MPS) for the 2023 budget. At a joint School Committee meeting with the Town Finance Committee on Monday, MPS Director of Finance Michelle Cresta said that this is in part due to the mental health crisis.
Transportation costs are $458,000 higher than they initially anticipated, and tuition costs are $513,000 higher. As of right now, MPS is okay in terms of funds because they had “a lot of great things in our favor at the end of last year,” Cresta said.
“We were able to carry over a little more than $800,000 in Circuit Breaker, which is a revolving fund … which we can use if we need to, ” Cresta said. “We were also able to prepay tuitions in the amount of $250,000 at the last minute last year, which helped us this year.”
The Special Education Circuit Breaker is a reimbursement program that provides extra funds for districts to use toward special education costs, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Cresta said the Circuit Breaker reimbursement for 2023 is $220,000 higher than what they had initially budgeted, so it’s another revenue source for them to use.
“So right now our total available balance for any special education tuition and transportation costs that we have, we have an available balance of $478,000. However, if we were to spend that $478,000, that means we would not have any circuit breaker carry over going into next year,” Cresta said.
Alec Goolsby, the chairman of the Finance Committee, said special education costs have been “a main piece of this budgets’ challenge” in years past.
“As we said last year, I think the more detail we can get on the history of that, how it’s been going up year after year … also what we’ve already increased year over year,” Goolsby said.
This “look back” is something the School Committee is currently working on, said Sarah Fox, chairperson of the School Committee.
For this year, Cresta said the Circuit Breaker money is their “saving grace,” and if it is spent, they won’t have the “cushion” for 2024 that they have now.
“It doesn’t seem like the mental health crisis is going away anytime soon, so certainly this is something that we need to plan for, something we need to anticipate,” Cresta said.