BRICK – The long list of repairs, maintenance, upgrades and improvements needed for district schools far outweighs the money available to pay for them in the current or 2017-2018 school year budget, officials said.
To help pay for the above, the Board of Education was expected to vote on spending $25,000 to hire professionals who would prepare a $12 million referendum for voters, but it was removed from the June 1 Board of Education agenda.
“We are not looking to move forward with that right now,” said Board President John Lamela. “Maybe in the future, but we pulled it off the agenda. We’re going to take our time and we want to do more homework.”
Lamela said they were trying to “spread the wealth” and “get stuff done…voters might not pass a $12 million referendum,” despite the need to address safety issues such as “roofs that are collapsing.”
During public comment, former Board of Education member Karyn Cusanelli asked which schools had collapsing roofs.
“Parents get concerned about safety when you said that. They hear ‘collapse’ and they think it’s a major safety issue,” she said.
Lamela said that he had exaggerated the need for repairs on the roofs of Drum Point and Lanes Mill Elementary Schools, which had roof leaks.
Board member and facilities chair John Barton said that water intrudes into the buildings when it rains. “A leaky roof doesn’t sound that bad, but it creates all kinds of problems,” he said.
Barton said the Board has to set priorities and work with the money they have to make as many repairs as they can to ensure that “things won’t fall apart” in the future.
Cusanelli said that one of the campaign promises of the four “Clean Slate” Board of Education candidates (they were sworn in on January 1, 2016) was to conduct an operational audit.
“You’ve been board members for one and a half years. Is it still a priority?” she asked.
Lamela said that when they looked at the cost of a school-wide operational audit they decided to conduct a variety of audits in-house, using some of the professionals already employed by the district.
An operational audit was an unbudgeted expense, added interim superintendent Thomas Gialanella. Some of the audits that had been completed include a special education audit, an administrative audit, and a transportation audit.
Gialanella said the special education audit dealt with staff development, and as a result of the audit “there would be monetary savings from less litigation,” he said.
The administrative audit resulted in improved communication and clear lines of responsibility that “weren’t around before,” he said.
Cost savings were achieved through the transportation audit by implementing more efficient bus routes and more, Gialanella said.
In other school news, it was announced that Board Attorney Nicholas Montenegro would be reviewing a subdivision for Laurelton Elementary School located at the intersection of Princeton Avenue and Route 88.
“We would like to do something there,” said Barton of the school that has been empty and unused since 2007.
Before the meeting Gialanella said that there are no plans for the school and it is currently not for sale.
“It’s not on the market, and I’m not sure if it will be subdivided. We need to explore our options and we need to discuss it with the Board,” he said.
The lot includes the former school building and a district supply warehouse.
The next regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting will be on Thursday July 13 at Brick High School at 7 p.m.