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Buffalo schools looks to recoup $800,000 in special education reimbursements

Buffalo Public Schools, always strapped for cash, missed out on hundreds of thousands of dollars when it underbilled for providing special education services to students from other school districts, a new state audit found.

The audit, released Tuesday by the State Comptroller's Office, showed the district could have received more than $800,000 in special-education reimbursements for the fiscal years 2014-15 and 2015-16.

The school district provided special education services to 65 non-resident students – 30 students attending a district school and 35 attending a non-public school, according to the audit.

One of the problems was that the district was billing based on non-resident tuition rates calculated by the state Education Department as opposed to the district's actual costs, which are generally higher than the state rates. More specifically, School 84 Health Care Center for Children at Erie County Medical Center provides services that are more costly.

The district also was not rebilling school districts when the state released updated rates, the audit found.

"If the district does not properly recover the costs of providing special education services to non-resident students, it will be subsidizing these costs for other school districts," the audit stated.

School officials on Tuesday said this was an area the district had been looking at even prior to the audit and, in fact, had informed the Comptroller's Office of this from the start.

The district has the ability to resend revised billings, and it's possible the district may not lose out on any funding by the time this is resolved, school officials said.

"We're right now in the process of calculating the exact amount we can rebill, which should drastically reduce that amount," said Geoffrey Pritchard, chief financial officer for the school system.


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