WESTERLY — The school district will soon submit a $3.5 million proposed capital projects budget for 2021-22 to the Planning Board.
The School Committee approved the plan, which is due to the Planning board on Thursday, during its Sept. 23 meeting. After review by the Planning Board, which typically focuses on whether the requests qualify as capital projects, the project plan will be submitted to the Board of Finance and town manager, who can add or delete items before including the plan in the annual proposed municipal budget. The Board of Finance and the Town Council perform separate reviews as well.
The approved capital budget tends to be significantly less than the original request. For example, the district requested $1.2 million for the current fiscal year but was approved for $826,000.
The new plan calls for seven heating and cooling system upgrades in parts of schools throughout the district and roof projects at Dunn's Corners and Springbrook elementary schools. John Pagano, the district's director of facilities, said the heating and ventilation projects are intended to "supplement" current systems. Eventually, he said, a larger project that would likely require issuance of a bond will be necessary.
About $330,000 would be used to replace aging surveillance cameras at all district schools and its bus garage.
A proposed district-wide computer networking infrastructure upgrade would cost $250,500 and address the aging system. It would also allow for consolidating the network.
The new plan also requests $74,880 as partial payment to replace four school buses as part of a planned five-year lease and $13,866 as one year of a three-year lease to replace a 2003 pickup truck for the district's transportation department. The plan also calls for $9,000 for one year of a three-year lease to replace a 1993 pickup truck used by the school district's buildings and grounds department.
Capital projects are defined in the Town Charter as major projects or purchases undertaken by the town or school department that generally do not recur on an annual basis. The projects or purchases must have an anticipated life expectancy of three or more years.
The projects and purchases must have a minimum cost of at least $49,999. Expenditures for projects that meet the threshold are considered capital items, and those below it are considered operating items.
Appropriations for capital expenditures continue in force until the purpose for which it was made has been accomplished or abandoned. The purpose of capital project appropriations is deemed abandoned if three years pass without any disbursement from or encumbrance of the appropriation.
The charter also calls for an annual inspection of all town and school department property and equipment that is subject to the capital improvement program. The inspection team consists of the following officials or individuals they designate: the town manager, the superintendent of schools, a Planning Board representative and administrators of departments participating in the program. Results of the annual inspection are to be compiled into a summary report to be submitted to the Town Council, the Planning Board, the Board of Finance, the School Committee and all participating departments. The annual inspection is to be completed prior to the deadline for submission of capital improvement requests.