State funding to offset cost of bond package
REGION 16 — The first round of state grants to fund school security improvements came and went in September without Region 16 receiving any money.
That was expected though, Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Tim James said, as the $5 million allocated by the state at the time was earmarked for schools with little or no security systems in place.
Region 16 didn’t miss out on the second round of grants however.
The state announced last week that 117 districts will receive a total of $16 million in grants for school security. The grants were part of the Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety Act, which was the legislature’s response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December in Newtown.
Region 16 will receive approximately $1,074,596 in grant funds, supplemented by $672,109 of local money, for security upgrades.
The Naugatuck school district, which received about $463,000 in grant funds, supplemented by $151,500 of local money, in the first round of the grant didn’t receive additional funds this time.
School security became a main concern of districts and the state following the shooting at Sandy Hook. Since then, a security audit was performed on each school in Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, and the district office. School officials have also been working on a list of security improvements to be made at the schools.
The Board of Education submitted a grant request to the state for nearly $1.75 million in the early fall, which was granted last week including the district’s prorated share of the funding.
After submitting the application, the board pared its security package down to nearly $1.6 million mostly by removing a proposal to buy new digital radios for all the schools. The bulk of the planned $1.6 million in upgrades, a little more than $1 million, is for a new digital camera system and additional surveillance cameras at the schools. The digital system would allow police officers to tap into the feed when they are responding to an emergency at the schools, according to officials.
Since the board removed some items from the original grant application, officials are waiting on clarification on what exactly they can use the money for from the state.
James said it’s a matter of whether the district is able to use the money for another item instead of the radios or if it has to forgo that funding, which would reduce the grant along with the district’s share.
Business Manager Pamela Mangini told the board at its Nov. 20 meeting the district had not received anything in writing yet from the state on the parameters of how the money can be used.
She said the hope is the money can be repurposed for other security items, but officials weren’t sure last week. She said the board may also be able to reconsider security items that were removed after the application was submitted.
The board will decide how to proceed once the district receives clarification from the state. One thing’s for sure, the grant funds will reduce a planned bond package the board will send to a referendum.
The board was planning to bond the roughly $1.6 million for the improvements together with the unexpected cost of replacing the roof at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls.
At its Nov. 6 meeting, the board learned that the roof at the 12-year-old school is in disarray. Shingles are sliding off the roof, there are portions of ridge vents on the roof that are completely gone, some nails have worked their way out and are missing and others nails left in the roof can be pulled out by hand, Region 16 Supervisor of Facilities and Maintenance Dave Langdon told the board at the time.
Langdon said last week only the sloped roofs that have shingles, or roughly 65 percent of the roof, will need to be replaced.
The roof on the art wing of the school is in the worst shape, as water has been leaking in that part of the building, according to officials. Temporary repairs were done last week on the art wing’s roof for about $7,200, Langdon said. The cost of the repairs came in under the $13,000 anticipated by the board.
Exactly how much the new roof will cost isn’t known yet. During the Nov. 6 meeting, Langdon estimated it could cost $1 million. Officials are exploring whether they have any legal or insurance options to help pay for the repairs. But the statute of limitations on the project has run out and the burden may fall completely on the board.
With the state grant for security improvements, the district will only have to bond its share of the safety upgrades with the cost of the roof.
“The good news is we’re not asking for a million and a half for security and a million plus for the roof,” board member Robert Hiscox said.
The board has not set a date for the referendum yet, but it is now expected to be held in March.