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Excess Cost Grant – Fiscal Reporting Best Practices

Today’s municipalities face a great challenge each year in preparing a balanced budgetWith costs continually on the rise, the issue of finding revenues to keep pace is a constant struggle, and in no area is this truer than education 

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Today’s municipalities face a great challenge each year in preparing a balanced budgetWith costs continually on the rise, the issue of finding revenues to keep pace is a constant struggle, and in no area is this truer than education 

Today’s municipalities face a great challenge each year in preparing a balanced budgetWith costs continually on the rise, the issue of finding revenues to keep pace is a constant struggle, and in no area is this truer than education 

The Special Education Excess Cost Grant (SEECG) data collection system is used to collect Excess Cost and State Agency Placement Grant data from school districts. The data collected is used by the Bureau of Grants Management to calculate the school district’s Excess Cost and/or State Agency Placement Grant, which provides state support for high cost special education placements and certain regular education placements. Having inadequate procedures over this process can mean school districts are leaving money on the table.

In order to maximize the SEECG assistance received, it is critical that school districts put strong processes and controls in place that allow for accurate reporting of all the district’s costs. Without such processes, eligible costs are often missed or not supported, which can lead to receiving less SEECG assistance than the district is entitled or having unsupported costs disallowed if reviewed by the State or by external auditors.

To that end, the following best practices are recommended for all school districts:

SEECG User Guide

Individuals involved in the process should review the SEECG User Guide annually to help identify any changes relevant to the current year submissions. This also serves as a refresher to the allowable/disallowed costs and methodologies that should be utilized in the preparation of the information. 

Documented Procedures

Each school district should document its procedures surrounding SEECG data collection reporting. This should include individuals responsible (preparers and reviewers), the process for collecting data, custody and maintenance of the information, reporting the information and the controls in place over the process. Aside from clearly defining roles and responsibilities, this documentation is invaluable when turnover occurs to ensure nothing slips through the cracks during transition. 

Trained Reviewers

Appropriate controls are imperative to the process, and this starts with trained and designated reviewers. Reviewers should be familiar with the process start to finish to ensure that

  1. All appropriate information is completed
  2. Appropriate support is maintained for each piece of student information
  3. Facility codes are supported and applicable max daily rates followed
  4. Filing deadlines are being met

Checklist by Student

Required information checklists are recommended for each student. In addition to outlining the documentation that should be maintained, the checklist approach is a great tool that the reviewer can utilize to ensure appropriate documentation is maintained and to document their review on. At a minimum, the checklist should include:

  1. Support for tuition days and transportation days (generally calendars by student)
  2. Tuition invoices / calculations for tuition costs
  3. Support for any state-placed students if applicable (e.g., DCF-603 forms for Department of Children and Families placements)

Detailed Individualized Education Plans (IEP)

The review process for IEPs should ensure that they are appropriately detailed and that the IEP is in line with the costs reported for the SEECG. For example, special equipment may be necessary to assist a student, but if the equipment isn’t clearly identified in the IEP (and why it is necessary) those costs will be missed or disallowed.

State-Placed Students

Checks should be put into place to ensure all state-placed students are considered for the SEECG submissions. As the SEECG eligible thresholds are much lower for these individuals it’s critical that additional consideration be afforded to these students to ensure they are appropriately included.

Electronic Storage

Data should be maintained in an electronic format when possible. Electronic records generally simplify the review process, allow for stronger safeguards over the access to and protection of sensitive information, and generally facilitate easier tracking of changes.

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While the SEECG data collection can be a very involved process, following the above best practices can help ensure that all eligible costs are captured and reported. Doing so eases the common pain points and mistakes seen in the process and mitigates the chance of leaving eligible costs and SEECG assistance on the table.   

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