B.I. School projects small deficit

Thu, 06/27/2019 - 5:00pm

The Block Island School expects to end the school year slightly in the red.

As of May 31, the projected deficit was $30,739, six-tenths of one percent of the $5.1 million school budget for the 2018-2019 school year. The latest projection, given to the School Committee at its June 17 meeting, was up from the April 30 projection of $7,640 but down from the March 31 projection of $35,028.

Superintendent Michael Convery explained that a major component of the deficit is the unbudgeted cost of cleaning up a leak of heating oil onto the playground. He said the school had hoped that its property insurance carrier, the R.I. Interlocal Trust, would reimburse the school for the cleanup. The expense was not covered, Convery said, because the oil spilled onto the ground outside the school building rather than damaging the building itself. The town government’s insurance will not cover the expense either.

“As a result, we will need to use the emergency reserve funds to cover the expenses,” Convery reported, adding that the invoice for the excavation work had not been received as of the meeting date.

The school had paid Clean Harbors Environmental Services $42,436 to clean up the leak. Once the contaminated soil was removed, the area had to be retested and backfilled before the playground could be reopened. The total cost of the cleanup is expected to be $47,000, charged to the “land improvements” budget line.

Other unplanned repairs added to the total overspending. The school had spent $24,653 on plumbing maintenance and repairs as of May 31, more than four times the budgeted amount of $6,000, and was projecting a total of $27,000 to be spent before the school year ends on June 30. Also, heating system maintenance is projected to be $14,000 over the $27,000 budget by June 30.

On the positive side, Convery noted, “We are projecting underspending some supply and technology lines due to the spending freeze” adopted by the Committee at its April 8 meeting to address the deficit projection in the March 31 financial report. The spending limitation does not affect the technical education or art budgets as those departments save funds for projects at the end of the year.

Facilities and personnel updates

The school’s building committee met on June 10, Convery said, to discuss a draft document soliciting bids to repair the front façade. A second solicitation, for engineering services related to the heating and cooling systems, was also discussed. Both bid packages are being planned for a July 1 publication date.

The Committee approved 14 non-certified staff reappointments to school-year positions and four of the specialists appointed to the Extended School Year program, all without comment or controversy. (Two positions, for a Special Education Teacher and one Camp Assistant, are still open.)

The 12 “stipend” reappointments were tabled. Padien explained they “are part of the contract negotiations” with the teachers’ union.

The six certified staff were all reappointed for one-year terms: Superintendent Michael Convery, Co-Principals John Canole and Kristine Monje, Guidance Counselor Cathy Girard, Special Education Director Mark Hawk, and Finance Director Melanie Reeves.

The next two School Committee meetings will begin at 5:35 p.m. on July 15 and August 19, at the school.