City school bond could relieve $3.3 million of delayed work
By Cristina Kumka
STAFF WRITER | November 15,2012
The city school district’s budget to maintain its schools, buses and grounds is up $106,900, but deferred maintenance is up seven times that number.
The Rutland School Board is considering a bond to cover five years’ worth of delayed work that is expected to cost $3.3 million for fiscal year 2014.
The amount of deferred work in the proposed budget compared to last year’s budget is up more than 28 percent, or $742,400, from $2,591,275 to $3,333,675.
The FY2014 capital maintenance budget, presented by Building and Grounds Director John Rice, was up 13 percent over last fiscal year’s budget of $800,150, with the biggest expenses being the purchase of two new school buses, a snow blower and a platform lift.
The capital maintenance budget is less than 2 percent of the city school district’s more than $44 million spending plan.
Other major projects include replacing doors and windows district wide and increasing security at Rutland High School, Rice said.
The district also spent $25,000 in maintenance this year on one school bus, he said.
But compared to the number of projects delayed, this coming fiscal year’s budget increase seems nominal.
Those projects not being paid for are evident, from rotting wood, peeling paint and crumbling brick at the Longfellow central office to rusty stairwells and broken windows at the middle and intermediate schools.
Rice provided photos of some of the issues with his budget.
In 2009, there was no deferred maintenance, according to the budget presented to the board Tuesday.
But according to Peter Amons, the schools district’s chief financial officer, the rapid increase in delayed projects happened for two reasons — money and an observant Rice.
“First, when work is deferred, there is no money to pay for it and it gets added to a list,” Amons said.
“And it’s increasing so fast because of identification. In John Rice’s judgement, he is finding things that need to be done and adding those to the list.”
Since 2009, even the regular maintenance budget, with deferred work not included, has decreased 42 percent or $666,550, compared to the 2014 proposal.
Amons said a deferred maintenance capital plan, or schedule that would reduce the amount of deferred maintenance work little by little over a period of years, would not be practical because unexpected maintenance work, like a pipe bursting at Stafford, would take precedent over something else and that something else would be added to the deferred list.
At the Tuesday meeting, board member Hurley Cavacas asked school administrators if it would be cost effective to ask the public to bond for the work, get it all done at once, then pay back the loan.
Superintendent Mary Moran said it was something she was looking into and could have a bond schedule created for the board.
“Deferments costs more,” Cavacas said. “We need to be proactive as a board.”
Amons shook his head in the affirmative.
Board member Robert Kurchena said borrowing is “incredibly inexpensive now,” and bond rates are historically low.
“In two years, we might have to borrow at 4 or 4.5 percent (interest rates),” he said.
Board Chairman Peter Mello said it might be better to retire the bond on Rutland High School before asking the public to pay for another one.
“But it is a conversation we should have,” Mello said. “I am not happy with the deferred work.”