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10-13-05 Finances may be strained

By William Kincaid

  Coldwater -- Out-of-area, severally handicapped children who move into the district could seriously burden the school's finances, according to Superintendent Rich Seas.

  Seas told school board members Tuesday that because Coldwater -- as well as other local districts -- has such strong social services, people with disabled children may move here to take advantage of the services.

  "It's a mere fact that people will move into Coldwater because we're a caring community," he said.

  Seas said many judges are mandating that schools provide adequate facilities for severely disabled children who are school-age special education students that can generate a catastrophic cost to the school. In many cases, children with extensive medical or psychological needs must be sent to institutions -- and the school will have to pay for it.

  "We have the responsibility to pay the educational cost if we're court ordered," Seas said.   According to Seas, the school receives approximately $5,000 per student from the state.. Additional state money is provided for handicapped students -- depending on their degree of severity. However, if a particular handicapped student -- who receives a total of $15,000 of state funding -- accumulates $100,000 in institutional cost, the school would have to pay the remaining $75,000. Seas said in such a situation, due to new state compensation guidelines -- potentially the school could get back as little as $25,000.

  If such a situation would occur, Seas said the costs could sabotage the budget.

  "We didn't plan for that and that bothers me," he said. "Those are the things that break the bank."

  Seas said the school has already worked with their attorney. And, unfortunately, there is nothing the school could do to get out of a future problem.

  "The law is taken out of our hands," Seas said. "It's a real frustration. There's no way out, we're responsible."

  Gene Linton, superintendent of the Mercer County Educational Service Center, said this problem "is not a common thing."

  Seas said the issue of catastrophic students is complex and problematic because the children need the help, but the costs could be overwhelming.

  "I would like to have the funding mechanism to meet the needs of these kids," he said.


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