Lack of state dollars causes $20,000 glitch in CSD budgetHarbor Family Services, school district work together on solution
Rockport — Officials from Five Town Community School District addressed the financial impact of educating students housed by Harbor Family Services.
The school district provides educational programs for students who reside at two group homes in Rockport operated by Harbor Family Services, commonly referred to as Harbor School. Until 2008, the school district received grants and reimbursements to cover costs. However, last year, a portion of the costs for education of Harbor Family Service students was not reimbursed by the state, costing the town approximately $20,000.
“To receive reimbursement from the state for special education service, first the student needs to be identified for needing those services and we then bill the state for them,” Special Education Director Judy Gove said Oct. 15 during a Rockport Select Board meeting. “We ran into issues when children were not identified for special education services and we were not reimbursed for them, so the question was what the impact to the taxpayers of Rockport was."
Gove said four students last year were not identified as needing special education services, which translated to approximately $20,000 in funding that was not reimbursed by the state.
The district was able to cover the unanticipated shortfall from the general fund budget, according to school officials.
“Harbor Family Services is working very hard to identify these students as they enter their program and if they are not identified right away, we work with them to get it done as quickly as possible, “Gove said.
The Department of Education has identified the problem as a statewide one that is not unique to Camden-Rockport schools, according to Gove.
Superintendent Elaine Nutter wrote in an email, “Harbor Schools provides a valuable service to the students of Maine, and they have worked collaboratively with our Special Education Director, Judy Gove, and me to correct the situation that occurred last year.”
This year, Harbor Family Services has collaborated with the school system on a day treatment program for students at Camden Hills Regional High School that is supported by funds received after billing Medicaid.
“It is fitting that original agreements are periodically reviewed, and the school administration has committed to the town of Rockport that we will at least annually review with them the local impact, if any, of the students who are residents of Harbor Schools of Maine,” Nutter said.
A group home was established in Rockport in March 2003 to serve six to eight high school students with co-occurring diagnosis. The school district received a grant to operate a self-contained special education program on-site at the second home.
Prior to 2008, the district received a substantial annual grant and other reimbursements to cover costs for administration, supplies, and personnel for the program, which served state agency clients as well as students with disabilities.
In 2008, the state discontinued reimbursing the districts through grants, forcing districts to bill the state on a fee-per-service basis for each state client needing special education services.
Dwight Collins is a reporter/photographer for The Camden Herald.
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