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Stonington - A group of relieved parents applauded the Board of Education Thursday night after it agreed to restore $43,000 to the school budget for magnet school transportation.
The board had cut the money earlier this summer as part of $352,000 in cuts it made to the budget after the defeat of the first referendum.
The decision had meant that in a few weeks parents of 43 students were going to have to either drive their children to the out-of-town schools or re-enroll them in the Stonington system.
Since the cut was announced, magnet school parents had attended meetings of the school board and Board of Finance urging them to restore the money.
The decision had baffled some parents as they pointed out that the state reimburses the town for the cost. School officials, though, say that money does not get funneled into the school budget but instead is deposited in the town's general fund. With Thursday night's decision, the town will again get that funding.
Interim Superintendent of Schools Paul Smotas came up with a plan to restore the funding and presented it to the board on Thursday. He said the system has saved $40,000 by signing a contract with a new electricity provider. That coupled with $12,0000 to $14,000 in savings for not hiring a part-time computer technician will provide more than enough money to restore the transportation.
Smotas said the system also is spending $97,000 that is not in the budget to address two emergency items: $80,000 to repair the sprinkler system at West Broad Street School and $17,000 to install sod on sections of three high school athletic fields so they can be used safely this fall.
He said voters at an upcoming town meeting will be asked to approve an additional appropriation to pay for the sprinkler system while the school board will ask the finance board to let it use $17,000 it saved from a school driveway project to cover the cost of the sod. If either is unsuccessful, the school board will somehow have to find the funds in its budget.
The sod was installed Thursday and officials hope the closed fields will be ready for play in a few weeks. The sprinkler system work is on budget and on schedule to be complete in time for the start of school.