2014-01-24 / Around Town

Middletown School Budget Process Begins

By Theresa Hillman

The Middletown School Committee met for the first time this year on Thursday, Jan. 16 for a budget workshop and regular meeting.

The budget presentation by Business Manager Raquel Pellerin included the audited fund balance from June 2013, a five-year capital improvement pre-budget proposal, and a three-year review and proposal for use of enterprise and restricted funds.

Superintendent Rosemarie Kraeger explained that the review and proposal document, required by law and already approved by the town, helps the committee prepare the budget as it separates the anticipated hard-core costs from figures that can be adjusted. It also identifies categories of revenue that are regulated, Pellerin added. Rules govern leftover monies and cash flow; for example, federal law keeps any school lunch profit within the program, and restrictions chosen by the donors protect fundraising efforts, like those by the cross country boosters who saved the sport recently cut from the budget.

Kraeger said that there was a 30- day period in the summer when the committee must make actual cuts. She added that the sports advisory committee would meet soon and advised parents of student athletes in sports that rely on donations to sit with the athletic director now to discuss fundraising.

Present for the pre-budget consultation, Town Administrator Shawn Brown estimated that it could take ten years to build a new high school, revamp the middle school, and consolidate elementary schools. Emergency repairs on existing schools are still needed with this timeline, Facilities Manager Ed Collins explained. Upkeep costs and liability issues were discussed concerning the need to have playground equipment professionally installed at Forest Avenue School.

Kraeger emphasized that there hasn’t been a collaborative agreement from elected parties about moving forward with a unified school. Chair Theresa Spengler said, “We may soon have something more concrete after talking with the town. We don’t know what’s going to happen with the unified [school issue].” She stressed that if regionalization doesn’t happen, Middletown might still build a high school.

Committee member Paul Mankofsky argued, “The anticipated total expenditures suggest an increase that is unaffordable.” Spengler questioned Mankofsky’s understanding of the process, stressing that the data clearly and concisely shows the preliminary figures that are used for consultation with the town prior to the task of line by line cutting that occurs later. Spengler noted, “This is not what we are asking for from the taxpayers.” The vote on receiving the pre-budget docu ment carried 3-2, with members Mankofsky and William O’Connell against. In other business:

Assistant Superintendent Linda Savastano announced that because the district is transitioning to the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessments next year, the state has set up pilot testing this spring.

Middletown High School Principal Gail Abromitis and Assistant Principal Andrew Longo presented their new waiver protocol that outlines assessment alternatives for graduation eligibility. Abromitis discussed the need to provide options for students who have not met testing, Capstone, portfolio and coursework requirements. Now students have more opportunities to demonstrate readiness, including participation in an intensive summer intervention, alternative testing, and acceptance into a school of higher education, AmeriCorps or City Year. State regulations outline the waiver protocol and a school-based team reviews each waiver.

The school committee approved the first reading of the new concussion policy mandate. The policy requires all student athletes take the ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) baseline pretest at school, at no cost to the student, prior to participation in any sport.

Kraeger announced that the moon rocks have arrived at Gaudet Middle School and that there is a family event scheduled for Jan. 31.

The next budget workshop on Jan. 29 will go into more detail about capital improvements. The next School Committee meeting is Feb. 13.

All Middletown School Committee members were present at the meeting.

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