Sometimes it costs to save.
That's the predicament the Warren County School District faces as they attempt to recoup the maximum amount of ACCESS funding possible.
"ACCESS is basically a state subsidy for certain children, certain children qualify for access. Almost all of our kids are special needs kids," Superintendent Brandon Hufnagel told the Personnel/Athletics and Co-Curricular Activities Committee on Monday night.
Hufnagel explained that the district provides services, such as speech therapy among others, that the district can then bill to Medical Assistance for reimbursement. "The money is required to be used for special education," he added.
"The state changed the way in which we are reporting ACCESS and how we are getting ACCESS funds," Hufnagel explained. "Without dedicating one person to that, the loss would be greater than the cost of the program."
A potential solution, approved by the committee, would create a secretarial position in central office that would free up the person who currently works with ACCESS to work full-time in that realm.
"It is a $300,000 to $400,000 venture for us and without a full-time ACCESS person, we are anticipating losing 25 to 30 percent," Hufnagel noted.
By "keeping a closer eye" on all students that are receiving reimbursable services, the district may be able to maintain and potentially enhance the total dollar amount by dedicating a person to that role.
Board member Tom Knapp asked whether the position needs to be year-round and Hufnagel said that "a lot of the billing happens over the summerthis position is crucial over the summer."
The position will entail "a lot of electronic submission, a lot of tracking, a lot of paperwork," Hufnagel said. "ACCESS funds are allowed to pay for a secretary. That is what we're doing." However, the new central office secretarial position being created will not be paid for out of ACCESS dollars.
Board President Arthur Stewart asked whether there would be a way to test the effectiveness of the position in future budgets, comparing what the district expects to receive in revenue from ACCESS with what is actually received. While possible, a fair comparison could not be found with this year's numbers, Hufnagel said.
The district "budgeted $305,000 in ACCESS" and associated funds, Hufnagel said. "Currently, the state left Leader Services and the IUs (Intermediate Units) hired another firm" to handle billing. "That firm has also changed the way we process billing. Right now, there's a lot more work that has to go into it.
"We're not going to receive the $305,000 this year that we budgeted. (We will) need to make up that ground somewhere else."
However, Hufnagel was optimistic that the budgeted amount could be recouped in future budget years. He explained that the individual who will be tasked full-time with ACCESS was the same person, as a result of work last year, who received an unexpected $100,000 check to the district from ACCESS.
The position request will likely go before the full board for action at the Jan. 14 meeting.