BERLIN — The Board of Education is seeking to roll over a portion of last year’s budget to begin work on security upgrades in the schools.
“The board is very much committed to getting new security,” said Superintendent Brian Benigni. The school system is looking to install additional security cameras, upgrade the phone systems in all the schools and hire a security director. They have also already purchased and are working on installing scanners that can read drivers’ licenses and perform a background check before vistors are able to enter each school.
The school board ended last fiscal year with a $443,590 surplus, although $400,000 of that comes from payments the state will make to offset a cut to Education Cost Sharing grant funds. The school board is asking the Board of Finance to carry over the remainder of the surplus, roughly $43,000, to pay for the upgrades.
According to town Finance Director Kevin Delaney, the board is able to carry up to 1 percent of its budget over into the next fiscal year, with the approval of the Board of Finance. The school board agreed to cut its budget last year by $400,000 to account for the ECS reduction, and Chairman Matthew Tencza expressed hope that the finance board will recognize “we're giving back money we could have used for very important things.”
"That $43,000 is just kind of the tip of the iceberg of what we need, but it would get pieces done,” he also said during an Aug. 13 meeting.
The state statute Delaney cited reads, “the board of finance in each town having a board of finance, the board of selectman in each town having no board of finance or the authority making appropriations for the school district for each town may deposit into a non-lapsing account any unexpended funds from the prior fiscal year from the budgeted appropriation for education for the town, provided such amount does not exceed one percent of the total budgeted appropriation for education for such prior fiscal year.”
The board met its $400,000 cut, a request that came from the Town Council, largely through unfilled positions, but some reductions also came from retirements and general savings, said school district Director of Business Operations Jeffrey Cugno.
“In this year what happened is we didn’t have an assistant superintendent for a while,” Cugno said. “When we did the budget last year, think about the times these budgets are put together.”
The license scanner costs approximately $8,700, with a $2,500 grant provided by Schaller Auto World, leaving the school board on the hook for around $6,200. Cugno said they will be deciding what other measures will be funded this year throughout the fall.
Board of Finance Chairman Sam Lomaglio said he would “support and advocate” the school board rolling over the funds. The board is scheduled to discuss allocating the money at its next meeting on Sept. 17.
“I would support the Board of Education putting $43,000 in for school security,” he said. “You can’t put a price on a child’s life,”