East Lyme raising money from athletic complex advertisements

East Lyme - School officials said Thursday that a program for advertising at the athletic complex has begun, with three advertisers signed up to pay about $1,000 each. The overall goal would be to raise $100,000 in advertising next year.

"The advertising program at the athletic field is actually taking off," said Board of Education Chairman Tim Hagen. "I'm hoping it will be a pretty nice source of revenue for the coming year."

The issue came up during a meeting with the Board of Finance, which took a closer look at the 2014-15 education budget, raising some questions about expenditures and potential new revenue streams for the school district.

The education budget proposal currently stands at $43.34 million, or a 3.34 percent increase over this year.

In addition to the new advertising program, the boards discussed potential payment for extracurricular activities and new positions under the state-mandated teacher evaluation system.

The finance board also asked if the school board had considered a "pay to play" program in which families would contribute to the cost of sports, for example, which account for about $800,000 in the school budget.

Board members and district officials said they had considered such ideas, but in the end, they were concerned it would deter students from participating and not make a huge dent financially, especially when factoring in administrative costs to process the money. High School Principal Mike Susi also cited research that students who are engaged in the school community fare better academically and overall.

Finance board member Lisa Picarazzi said she definitely supported sports and understood the benefits but was trying to find creative solutions given the tough budget choices the board is facing.

"There really are a lot of people in town that are hurting, and we don't have their voice here," she said. "They deserve to be heard."

During discussions, school representatives reiterated the need for the new positions to support the state-mandated teacher evaluations. Support for the new system accounts for $378,258 in the budget.

Assistant Superintendent Brian Reas said without the positions, the district would be faced with two negative options: the district would not be fully compliant with the state's requirements or principals would have considerably less time for students and parents.

The board will review some departments in the town budget and begin deliberations on the overall budget at its next meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday.

k.drelich@theday.com

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