2nd dispatcher, GPS equipment sought for Westerly school buses

2nd dispatcher, GPS equipment sought for Westerly school buses



WESTERLY — The School Committee reviewed modest proposed funding increases in the district’s transportation and facilities departments Thursday during the third of several planned workshops for the 2018-19 budget.

Superintendent Mark Garceau said the facilities budget would see a net increase of about $31,000, or 0.012 percent, from the current fiscal year level.

An increase from $4,000 to $19,000 in plumbing and heating supplies, mostly in order to address deferred maintenance on buildings, would be offset by a $15,000 cut in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning maintenance line item, Garceau said.

For student transportation, Garceau is budgeting for a second dispatcher. The non-union position would total $43,680 and would be for a licensed bus driver who could fill that role when needed.

Transportation Director Susan Guarino does an admirable job and is an “unsung hero” but she is spread too thin, Garceau said.

“She’s been short-handed, and puts in 12, 14, sometimes 16-hour days,” Garceau said. “And frankly, she’s got no backup,” save for one other person to help in the office, he said.

Guarino has managed to find some savings with the new proposed hire as well. One unfilled driver’s position and one unfilled bus monitor would be cut, resulting in a net savings of $25,000 for personnel.

“I support this wholeheartedly,” Garceau said. “She’s figured out how to make this happen.”

For equipment, the department is requesting $48,000 to outfit every bus with GPS, plus a $16,920 annual support fee for the system.

“It’s about having a system to track where the buses are, if a bus is broken down,” Garceau said. “It will allow us to closely monitor the condition and repair levels of our buses.”

As part of the package, the district also wants to buy a diagnostic computer for the buses for $8,900.

The transportation department’s year-over-year increase would come to $48,820.

Lastly, no funding increase was requesed for the Tower Street Community Center, which hosts classes for cosmetology and the district’s learning and transition academies. The center will eliminate a vacant Parent Academy coordinator, a total of $35,858.

On Wednesday, Garceau proposed adding seven full-time instructional positions, totaling $681,000.

Last week when the committee started the 2018-19 budget process, Garceau presented a request for an additional $407,645 in special-education spending, mostly in staff, plus about $300,000 in a proposed contingency fund for special education.

Next week, Garceau will present the district’s fixed expenditures, such as salary, benefits and health care costs, as well as administration department budgets, ahead of a Jan. 31 full budget proposal for the committee and the public.

rblessing@thewesterlysun.com


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