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A New Fiscal Year As School Begins



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A new year has begun. Along with Superintendent of Schools Dr Lorrie Rodrigue sharing news of a “smooth” start to the school year, the Board of Education approved its final 2018-19 year-end financial report and heard its first report of the new fiscal year at its August 27 meeting.

The board also approved a salary increase and contract extension for district Business Director Ron Bienkowski, heard a report on summer facilities work, and hired a new director of facilities. To read about the new facilities director, see the related story, above.

The 2018-19 fiscal year ended on June 30, and, according to the report presented to the board, “The district concluded the year with a remaining positive balance in the appropriated budget of $328,772 or .43 percent [of the total budget], which is classified as an unexpended year-end balance, which is eligible to be deposited in the non-lapsing account.”

The report included recommended transfers, which the school board later approved.

Board members Andy Clure and Dan Delia spoke regarding the remaining positive balance. Mr Delia asked Mr Bienkowski what his thoughts are on “coming closer to a balanced budget,” and Mr Clure later questioned what the “perception” of the balance will be.

Mr Bienkowski said the goal is always to come as close to balancing the budget as possible, and he noted uncontrollable and unpredictable costs that are “fluid” throughout the fiscal year.

The board later voted to request that the Board of Finance transfer the remaining 2018-19 fiscal year’s funds in the school district’s non-lapsing account for educational purposes and $63,000 be of it be dedicated for special education.

For the first month of the 2019-20 fiscal year, Mr Bienkowski’s next report shared a list of emergency repairs completed during the month, including “replacing the [Head O’ Meadow Elementary School] well pump at a depth of 580 feet, $10,738; replacing the gym controller at the high school for $10,930 (this electronic device controls the basketball baskets and gym divider); and... at the Reed school, work on the oil tank, which was started last year and completed this year, for $7,050. (This emergency repair was required as a result of a pressure leak on the top of the tank which required correction to assure regulatory compliance by relocating a vent pipe.)”

Mr Bienkowski shared pictures of summer facilities work completed ahead of the start of the 2019-20 school year. Other projects included replacing original carpet in an area at NHS, a boiler replacement project at NHS, an underground tank removal project at Hawley Elementary School, a new hot water tank for Hawley, replacing carpet in Reed’s lower level, sidewalk projects, gymnasium refinishes, and landscaping improvements.

The Blue & Gold stadium at NHS is under “further investigation for a solution,” according to the presentation, as it is annually fixed due to paint chipping and complaints of paint on pants. Sandblasting, painting, and other solutions are being looked into, according to Mr Bienkowski.

The board also voted 5 to 1 to approve Mr Bienkowski’s 2.25 percent salary increase and contract extension, as recommended by Dr Rodrigue, with Mr Clure against the motion — after sharing he supports Mr Bienkowski’s salary increase but he does not support the practice of extending contracts in general. Board member John Vouros was not present for the meeting.

“I believe that [Mr Bienkowski] has been an exemplary employee for the district,” board Vice Chair Rebekah Harriman-Stites said.

Board member Debbie Leidlein echoed that sentiment, adding that over the last ten years she has “seen the work he has done.”

“[Mr Bienkowski] has not just the district’s best interests at heart, [he] has the children’s interest at heart,” Ms Leidlein said.

Dr Rodrigue also updated the board on efforts made following last year’s special education self-study. Some teachers have gone through training, a speech and language support position was filled for the preschool level, paraeducators were “in place in buildings that needed further” special education support, and an effort to give all staff confidentiality training is underway.

“And I will give you more pieces of that [special education self-study] as the year progresses,” Dr Rodrigue said.

During other discussions, the school board reviewed the superintendent’s proposed goals for the year and the district’s instructional priorities/leadership goals. Both are expected to be brought up at the board’s next meeting for possible approval, along with a proposed new capital improvement plan policy, shared with the school board by the Board of Finance.

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