Preston approves school budget and separate $487,000 security plan

Preston - The Board of Education approved a $10.9 million 2013-14 school budget Wednesday with a 5.2 percent spending increase and a separate $487,329 school security improvement plan by the same 5-2 vote.

Superintendent John Welch and board members were intentionally vague about specific security measures, discussed behind closed doors prior to the vote. But Welch said it involved exterior and interior improvements, better communication systems and improved video surveillance. For example, the town's two schools combined have 51 exterior doors that need to be better secured, he said.

Welch said some aspects will become evident if the plan is implemented, and the board also will have to go out to bid for segments of the plan.

The security plan would have to be approved by the Board of Finance and residents at a town meeting and referendum.

School board Chairwoman Jan Clancy said the state legislature is considering a bill to provide funding to towns for security improvements. Preston could receive about 65 percent reimbursement, Clancy said.

The board voted 5-2 with members John Moulson and Charles Raymond opposing both the budget and the security plan.

Welch and several school officials discussed general terms of the plan with the Board of Finance following the school board meeting. Chairman Jerry Grabarek said the finance board likely would invite the school board to a closed-door meeting to discuss details in May, after the state legislature makes decisions on reimbursements or security standards for school buildings.

Welch told the school board he decided against placing a $93,000 school resource police officer in the budget to concentrate on physical school security improvements.

The $10.9 million school budget has a $543,843 spending increase over the current budget and would keep existing programs and staffing. Welch said the biggest increase is for special education tuition, expected to jump by 20 percent, or $304,775, next year.

Salaries would increase by $144,930, or 3.1 percent, and health insurance costs also are expected to rise by 9.6 percent, or $92,455.

The only new positions are a part-time bus mechanic and a part-time clerk for the bus garage, both recommended by the board's transportation subcommittee.

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