School budget causes worry
Official asserts need for a behavioral expert, RN
MILFORD – Voters rejected school budgets two years in a row, so administrators are striving for a flat budget this year.
But there are two new positions that are vital, the superintendent of schools told the School Board as he presented an overview of 2017-18 budget plans earlier this month.
One is a board-certified behavioral analyst for children on the autism spectrum, a specialist who would determine strategies for eliminating behaviors that put the children and the adults who work with them at risk, Superintendent Robert Marquis said.
Currently, a behavior analyst is contracted for 55 hours a month.
The field of autism has exploded, Marquis said, and there are now 20-25 students in the district diagnosed as autistic.
Marquis also wants to upgrade the nursing position at the Bales-Jacques campus to an RN, for an increased cost of $25,000.
An RN can do on-site diagnoses, Marquis said, and for that to happen at Jacques now, the nurse has to call the middle school nurse, who has to leave that building and go to Bales-Jacques to make an assessment.
Doing so "places both buildings at risk," Marquis said.
"I have concern for the children and the staff," he said, and there is a liability issue because "we know how fragile the situation is. This is very important to me. Everyone is chipping in to afford it," with principals and administrators making cuts to their budgets.
The budget request from Jacques Principal Nancy Maguire mentions that children’s health care needs can include epilepsy, attention disorders, Type 1 diabetes, food allergies and asthma.
"Add to this equation the children whose families don’t have adequate health care may come to school with untreated ear infections and strep throat," Maguire said. Licensed practical nurses "have neither the education nor the training to assess, evaluate and analyze symptoms. They can only take vital signs and report to an RN."
The district’s proposed operating budget for next year stands at $41 million, $1.5 million more than this year’s operating budget, with most of the hike because of contracted wage and benefit increases.
Two warrant articles are proposed: One would expand kindergarten to full-day, at a cost of $65,000, and the other is a $3 million bond for repairs and other improvements to buildings districtwide.
There are also two collective bargaining agreements – for support staff and custodians – but their details aren’t available yet.
The proposed spending plan would mean a tax rate increase of $1.23, or 5.98 percent, for local schools.
The board planned to meet with the School Budget Committee to discuss the budget on Saturday, Nov. 19, and a public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 17.
The school Deliberative Session is Thursday, Feb. 9, and Election Day is Tuesday, March 14.
Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.