Town Council, finance board approve bonds for security, technology and field improvements
In a joint meeting that lasted about four hours last Thursday, Trumbull’s Town Council and Board of Finance approved bonding for school security upgrades, technology and field improvements.
Both boards ended up arriving at unanimous decisions to approve spending for all three, but arriving at those decisions was preceded by a good deal of debate and discussion, particularly on technology.
Both boards met in executive session to discuss security improvements. Once out of executive session, the boards voted to decrease the proposal to spend $840,000 on security down to $780,000, as they said the superintendent had suggested in executive session.
The town is avoiding making specific details of the plan public, as a security precaution.
“It addresses safeguards at the buildings and improves communication between schools and the Police Department,” First Selectman Timothy Herbst said after the vote. “Parents in town can be assured that the safety and security of their children are of the highest importance.”
The initial capital improvement plan for technology in Trumbull schools requested bonding up to $1.34 million. But both boards ended up agreeing to cut that bond amount to about $781,000, after Board of Finance alternate Vincent DeGennaro presented an analysis of the technology bond.
DeGennaro works for Priceline, managing its global infrastructure, and analyzed which items in the technology request would be worth bonding and which should be in the operating budget because of having a short life.
“We are woefully behind compared to other towns and districts,” DeGennaro said of technology. “There should be an annual budget item for technology — every business and school district has to accommodate for technology today.”
DeGennaro kept items in the bonding recommendation that will last about five years or more, including installing full wireless access and Smart Board packages. DeGennaro thought items like computer lab replacement, printer replacement, laptops, and elementary iPads should be purchased using operating budget money.
The total amount DeGennaro recommended cutting from the request and adding to operating was $574,850.
Members of both boards praised DeGennaro’s analysis and many agreed with it, but some members worried that if they cut the bond amount now, the Board of Education would not be able to fund the remaining amount for technology, because the board received $1.8 million less than it requested for the coming budget year.
“I believe all of this should have been decided before the budget was voted on,” Board of Finance member Tom Tesoro said.
Tesoro cited Superintendent Ralph Iassogna, who said that more than a $900,000 reduction in the Board of Education’s budget request would lead to cuts in people and programs.
Michael London, a Republican on the Town Council, argued that the schools can cover technology using $874,000, set aside in a special account by state statute, that has thus far been untapped. The Board of Education has said in recent meetings that the $874,000 could help offset the reduction to its request, to avoid any layoffs.
Dave Rutigliano, a Republican on the Board of Finance, said he felt comfortable with DeGennaro’s bonding recommendation.
“I think it’s a good catch-up,” he said.
Councilwoman Martha Jankovic-Mark was concerned about reducing the bond amount.
“I feel we are between a rock and a hard place,” Mark said. “We’re not dealing with a company, we’re dealing with education.”
Despite concerns from a few, the amendment to reduce the bond passed both boards. The final technology bond passed unanimously.
Safety is the main concern when it comes to bonding $740,000 for renovations at Trumbull High School’s McDougall Stadium and Track, according to high school Athletic Director Michael Herbst.
The track has about a 10-year life span and the field has about eight to 10 years, Herbst said.
Herbst said the field couldn’t be used next year if there is no renovation. In a standard field safety test, a field in good shape will score 100, meaning that the rubber fill will safely cushion a fall. An unsafe field would rate at 200. Currently, there are areas of the Trumbull High field with a 193 and 195 score.
“If we didn’t do it, everything would be away,” Herbst said of games. “We wouldn’t be able to use it because of safety.”
Many other town groups use the field and track, not just high school sports.
Herbst said the field and track renovation was the most crucial field request for the coming year, though improvements will be needed in the future to the schools’ tennis courts.
The bond of $740,000 passed unanimously.