Superintendent anticipates budget overrun


Weston Public SchoolsIn light of some new expenses, the schools may need to ask the finance board for a supplemental $85,000 budget appropriation.

Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer explained in an email to town and school officials dated March 15 that the school district has three possible “unexpected and essential expenditures” which have come up in the past two weeks and could cause an overage in the schools’ 2012-13 budget.

The expenditures are:

• $63,000 for the removal of snow from the roofs of all four schools following the February blizzard;

• $57,000 for the replacement of the network switch to ensure that Internet service to the district would not be disrupted in future lockdowns and emergencies;

• $20,000 to install a generator at the central office building. She explained that in the event of a lockdown to the entire district, central office operations could not be moved to one of the schools, and a loss of power would greatly hinder the district’s ability to communicate and manage the situation.

To mitigate those expenses, which total $140,000, Dr. Palmer said the district has put an immediate freeze on all non-essential spending from line item accounts across the district.

But in light of covering those unanticipated expenses, Dr. Palmer said she may need to ask the finance board for a supplemental appropriation of up to $85,000 to cover police overtime costs which the schools are incurring for coverage on School Road, also known as The Mile of Safety.

Dr. Palmer asked police to increase their coverage on School Road from six hours a day to nine hours a day, following the tragedy in Newtown on Dec. 14. As a result, a considerable amount of police overtime has been incurred.

Dr. Palmer explained in her email that “with each passing week” there will be greater clarity if funds will be available to mitigate these costs. However, should funds in the school budget not be available, she would like the finance board to consider a supplemental appropriation to cover them.

In an email response to Dr. Palmer, First Selectman Gayle Weinstein suggested alternatives to asking for a supplemental appropriation.

She said the town is in the process of requesting FEMA reimbursement for the snow removal costs for the school roofs, and could receive up to 75% reimbursement for those costs.

She said there may be less expense alternatives than a $57,000 replacement switch to improve Internet capabilities, such as a new broadband connection or Code Red service connection.

Ms. Weinstein said she does not believe a new generator at central office is an “immediate need.”

Dr. Palmer said the district would consider the suggestions that were made and would try to cover any additional overages first from its own budget before requesting a supplemental appropriation.


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