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 kcleveland@cabinet.com.