standing Mystic Middle School

Mystic Middle School. Sun file photo

STONINGTON — While the Board of Education’s 2019-20 budget is slight less than the previous year's spending plan — largely because of savings from middle school consolidation — its Capital Improvement Plan is substantially higher.

The board presented its capital plan to the Board of Finance on Tuesday night, requesting $4.45 million, compared with $879,402 approved for the current fiscal year. 

The $4.45 million represented the amount of spending "with no financing." Taking into account borrowing for components of the capital improvements over varying periods over the course of 10 years, the initial amount would be $2 million.

Looking ahead 10 years, the capital plan would cost in the range of $12 million, according to a district spreadsheet.

The plan includes improvements and repairs at Stonington Middle School (formerly Mystic Middle School) and at the new District Office (formerly Pawcatuck Middle School).

Capital improvements requested at the middle school total $1.8 million. The largest requests are $815,000 to improve and expand parking lots; $600,000 to add Wi-Fi-controlled air conditioning and electrical upgrades; and $209,000 to construct a new secured entry.

The board also included $1 in the coming fiscal year as a place holder for future roof repairs, totaling $885,000, which would be spread over the 2020-21 and 2021-22 budgets.

Other capital improvements to the middle school include additional baseboard heat in the science rooms, which have been historically chilly, for $12,500; new cafeteria tables for $34,000; painting and repairs of walls and doors for $35,000; and flooring repairs costing  $40,000. The building will also need an upgraded facilities management system, $30,000.In addition, the board requested $19,000 for new gymnasium wall padding.

Stonington Middle School will also require new exterior and interior signage that would cost $10,000.

The health center in Pawcatuck Middle School will be relocated to the merged middle school, requiring new walls with full wiring at $12,000.

For the new District Office, the board requested $750,000, which included $350,000 for air conditioning and electrical upgrades.

The building will also house the district’s new Alternative Education Program for special education students. The board requested $250,000 in classroom upgrades to cover painting the walls and replacing flooring. The program will allow the town to educate students who previously needed to be transported to other districts, and may also provide a source of revenue if students from other districts choose to enroll in Stonington’s program.

The board also requested $10,000 for the building’s new interior and exterior signage.

Other requests included $20,000 for locks and keys, $40,000 for elevator shaft repair and $80,000 to upgrade the building’s management system.

For the entire district, the board requested $53,000 for a maintenance and plow truck, $20,000 for pavement repairs, $20,000 for tiling and carpeting, $135,000 for the replacement of equipment such as skid-steer loaders, $30,000 for hazardous materials testing and $290,000 for relocation of the bus depot.

The board also presented a number of requests that will be ongoing, showing the items in a 10-year plan to the Board of Finance. The list included $480,000 per year, increasing to $500,00 per year in the fifth year, for teachers’ computer leases and the maintenance and upgrading of internet technology. Purchases of computers for students would come to $145,000 each year for 10 years. The district’s phone system lease was budgeted for $30,000 per year and the installation of security systems and cameras was $50,000 for the first year and $15,000 thereafter.

Mike Fauerbach, a member of the Board of Finance, asked why the costs of technology weren’t decreasing since computers were getting cheaper and school enrollment is declining.

Jason Jones, director of technology, said the $480,000 was a combination of added technology in the schools, ongoing replacement and upgrading costs, and amortization.

He said the schools have interactive boards for teachers and also supply computers for use in school for students in grades K-8, as well as computer labs and additional laptops at the high school. He said the schools have network and Wi-Fi infrastructure that have to be maintained and upgraded on a regular basis.

“The high school and the middle school haven’t had new projectors and many of them are failing — they cost about $2,000 each, one in every classroom,” he said. “So, the cost doesn’t go away, it’s replacement costs."

Jones also said the schools’ technology budget has been underfunded for many years and the workaround was to finance the equipment and upgrades. But the Board of Education requested a budget without financing, which would cost the district less in the long run, he said.

“What we’re trying to achieve and what the board has asked for many years, is to create some level funding for our purchases,” he said.

Fauerbach asked for a more detailed breakdown of the costs.

“What would help me is if you could break this down. Rather than saying $500,000 per year, it would be nice to see what that breakdown really is, so that we could say yes we want that smartboard but the next year we could defer,” Fauerbach said. “It’s hard to make any decisions here.”

For the non-capital-plan part of its request, the Board of Education is seeking $38 million for 2019-20, a decrease of $5,007. The 2018-19 budget was 2.1 percent higher than the previous year's budget.

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