School board OKs budget transfers

REGION 16 — The Region 16 Board of Education last week approved budget transfers totaling $235,000 to pay for capital projects and a new reading program.

The board made four separate transfers from accounts projected to have surpluses in the current budget: $25,000 from equipment leasing for work on the parking lot at the new district office, a total of $90,000 from the tuition account for furniture and fixtures ($40,000) for the office and repairs to the annex ($50,000) at the office, and $120,000 from utility accounts for a new reading program. Each transfer is a dollar amount the board can spend up to on the projects and program.

After factoring in the transfers, the current school budget was estimated as of last week to end with a balance of about $237,000.

The money for the district office parking lot elicited the most discussion among the board, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect.

The new district office in Prospect is the last and smallest part of a three-part building that included the new Prospect Elementary School and renovations to Laurel Ledge Elementary School in Beacon Falls. Algonquin School was demolished, with the exception of the annex, to make way for the new office.

Work on the parking lot wasn’t included the building project’s budget. The $25,000 transfer comes after a supplemental appropriation of $179,982 was approved at a district meeting from the 2014-15 school budget surplus to the board’s capital non-recurring account. Out of the appropriation, $150,000 is earmarked for the parking lot.

Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin said after a recent walkthrough at the new office with representatives from A. Secondino & Son, Inc., the contractor building the office, officials decided to add more improvements to the parking lot. A. Secondino & Son is also doing the work on the parking lot.

The additional work includes more curbing to help with water runoff, more parking on the north side of the building and a sidewalk from the parking lot to the adjacent town park so residents can park at the office on the weekend for events, Yamin said.

The parking lot work is now estimated to cost $173,815.

At last week’s meeting, board member David Rybinski felt the project should go out to bid now due to the price. He voted against the transfer.

Yamin explained the parking lot work went out to bid as an alternate with the overall district office project. He said going out to bid again would cost money, and contended the bids would come in higher.

In a subsequent interview, Yamin said A. Secondino & Son submitted two bids for the parking lot work, one at about $145,000 and the roughly $173,000 bid. He said the additional work on the lot will allow the district to do the job right the first time.

The other three transfers were grouped in the same motion and unanimously approved.

School officials have been piloting two reading programs this year — McGraw-Hill Reading Wonders and ReadyGEN — for kindergarten through second-grade students. Officials will choose one over the coming weeks to implement next school year. The $120,000 will cover the cost of implementing which program is selected, including all materials and professional development.

The district doesn’t have a formal reading program in place, according to officials.

“It’s a very formalized program that will directly address improving the reading skills of all our students,” Yamin told the board last week.

Repairs to the annex at the district office were never part of the school building project. The district plans to use the annex for storage and as the maintenance office. The $50,000 will include repairing the roof on the annex and converting classrooms into a shop area for maintenance workers.

Maintenance workers are currently based out of Long River Middle School in Prospect, Yamin said. After they move to the annex, he said, two large rooms will open up at Long River.