School Committee continues to pore over budget request
In the first in a series of workshops to fashion a school budget, the Block Island School Committee on Tuesday continued to scrutinize its 2013-2014 proposal, currently amounting to $4,719,108, an increase of $105,187 — or two percent over last year’s budget of $4,613, 922. The school is requesting town appropriations of $4,513,732, also two percent higher than last year.
Since first presenting the budget on January 14, Superintendent Robert Hicks plugged in new figures that added some $2,000 into revenues. He explained that there were some adjustments derived from an increase of $8,256 in state aid; corrections to longevity stipends bringing in $3,407; an error in the School Committee stipend line saving $10,765 , plus an increase of $980 from the Municipal Emplyees Retirement System pensions — all totaling $23,408. Subtracting a $21,346 increase in teachers’ pensions, left a $2,062 decrease in overall expenses.
The committee voted to make the correction in the School Committee stipend line, from $11,550 to $1,150.
Hicks also pointed out that part of budget planning included consideration of outstanding capital projects. Currently these include repair of the façade of the older section of the school ($80,000) and replacement of the roof ($74,300). With the town having put aside $20,000 toward the façade, Hicks said $60,000 remained to be funded.
In addition, as a follow-up to the shooting tragedy in Newtown, Conn., Hicks said the school was working with the police department to improve security. While no costs had been calculated, Hicks said in the past the school had “used reserve funds to complete capital projects.”
At the end of the 2012 fiscal year, the school had a fund balance of $266,016, from which a yet-undetermined amount would be made would be available for use in 2013-2014. Of this reserve, $28,769 will be applied to making up a part of the difference between appropriations from the town and budgeted expenses.
Discussion followed on how reserves should be applied — whether for the façade, roof or security. Hicks also noted that a lift needed replacement and estimated the cost at $10,000, though it would not be installed this year.
However, in his memo to the committee, Hicks cautioned against depending on reserves to offset operational expenses, though he did recommend that some part of reserves be assigned to one-time capital uses. The group made no decisions on the application of reserves for the time; however, it discussed the possibility of exploring grants for funding the projects.
In other discussion, committee members focused on a proposed administrative reorganization at the school, which would be comprised of a full-time and part-time principal along with a superintendent. The increased hours (15) built in to the full-time principal’s post would be subtracted from the superintendent’s position, which now stands at 90 days a year, but would drop to 75.
Chair Bill Padien suggested that $2,500 be set aside to bring the superintendent’s hours back up to 80. Committee member Pat Doyle thought the allotment of hours should be left as originally proposed, with the bulk of hours and responsibilities assigned to the new full-time principal. “It reflects our fiscal responsibility even though it’s only a few thousand dollars.”
Padien, however, insisted he was “not comfortable with 75 days for the Super.” He expressed his concern about, “a person coming into a new situation,” who might be drawn from the current staff, without experience. “To me as a committee member, it makes me secure to have [Hicks] here when we need him,” Padien said. The next meeting was set for February 4.