BRATTLEBORO -- While looking over the proposed 2015 budget the Brattleboro School Board has been trying to weigh immediate needs with long-range investments.
The board has only held a few meetings to start going over the budget it will eventually present to Town Meeting Representatives and a final spending plan, and projected tax rate, is still a few weeks away.
But while looking over the proposed capital expenditures the town's school principals are looking for, the board this week began to outline its plan to address the district's needs to upgrade, and maybe expand, its three elementary schools.
Academy School Principal Andy Paciulli told the board that the school is in need of a permanent building to replace the modular double classroom which was purchased five years ago.
It could cost the district a few hundred thousand dollars to build an addition on to Academy, or to purchase another modular classroom, but more immediately Paciulli said the existing modular classroom could need up to $14,000 in upgrades to keep it in use for a few more years.
The district purchased the modular building used, and it now needs a new roof, according to Paciulli, as well as sills and a door jam to keep it functional.
The school board barely had its budget passed last year, and the board members know they are going to have to go into Town Meeting this year with very good explanations for their proposed spending.
At the budget meeting this week the board was weighing the option of convincing taxpayers to invest money into a building that might be sold in two years, or start talking about a special bond to pay for a permanent addition for Academy School.
"I hate to sink money into this. I feel like it is throwing it away," said board member Jill Stahl Tyler. "It has a limited life. It's past its limited life. We bought it used to begin with. I would rather gamble that voters would understand that investing in the facilities makes a lot of sense."
Paciulli said the two classrooms in the modular building are used throughout the school day and he said there is no way the school could do without the space.
He also said the board should not consider investing in another modular classroom.
"For me its like throwing money out the window," said Paciulli. "We have to really look at that for down the road and figure out what we're going to do."
The board is also considering asking for a bond this year for a new boiler for Academy.
School board member Peter Yost said the board will need to look at all of the district's needs before figuring out how much money taxpayers will be asked to invest in the facilities this year.
"We were planning on going to the Town Meeting with a separate line item, or a bond, for the new boiler for Academy," Yost said. "But where we end up with that depends on the evaluations at the other two schools. How much can we dedicate to the Academy job in relation to how pressing the needs are at Green Street and Oak Grove? We don't yet have the information we need to know how far we can push on Academy."
At this week's meeting Finance Director Jim Kane said he was still finalizing the projected special education costs for 2015 which would have a big impact on the budget.
Kane said he hopes to have those numbers in the coming weeks.
The board needs to have its budget done before the end of January.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.