Huntsville City Schools Write Check To Reimburse U.S. Department of Education

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Huntsville City Schools may have a $9 million surplus, but they're still paying for the $19 million debt they incurred during the 2010-2011 school year.

On Monday, the school system will be sending off a $2.5 million check to the state, that will then be used to refund the U.S. Department of Education.

In 2011, the State Department stepped in and required Huntsville City Schools to slash special education funding to $6.5 million.

"At that time the school system was spending about $9 million a year of its own local resources for special education, and there was a $9 million matching of federal funds," explained superintendent Dr. Casey Wardynski.

"The key thing to know with federal funds is those monies are designed to add on to local spending, and when they don't the federal government wants those monies back."

Against federal guidance promising federal match dollars would be leveled out at the $6.5 million mark going forward, school officials budgeted $9 million in the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

"About June of this summer, after all these transactions had taken place, the U.S. DOE said we rescind that letter of guidance saying if you only have to refund the money for this one year, but go forward with that new number forever more," said Wardynski.

The decision to return funding to its previous levels have now saved the district from having to write another $2.5 million check next year.

"Because we anticipated and prepared for this we're still looking at a $9 million surplus," said Wardynski.

Despite returning to the original funding levels, Wardynski says there are no plans to hire more special education aids. Citing No Child Left Behind results, he says the schools are improving with current staffing and resources.

The schools do have plans to add playground equipment tailored to special needs students.

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