Brunswick school repairs fail to keep pace with problems

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BRUNSWICK — School buildings aren’t being kept in good condition, the department’s director of facilities told the School Board Wednesday night.

It was yet another round of sobering financial news as the board develops a budget to address a projected $3 million funding gap.

The total value of the department’s facilities is $88 million, Facilities Director Paul Caron said. But the cost to fully repair all of the buildings has risen to $44.4 million, more than 50 percent of their total replacement value.

“At some point, we’ll get to the point where the repair cost will outweigh the use,” said Caron. “We don’t want to get to that point.”

Until recently, the state Department of Education has required that 2 percent of the replacement cost be directed to school building maintenance every year; this amount allows the buildings to be maintained throughout their lives.

Caron said that the DOE has relaxed the requirement, and is now recommending a 1.5 percent investment, an amount that he believes is inadequate.

“The reality is, you can’t fool the engineer’s numbers,” he said. “The reality is 2 percent.”

To address the maintenance backlog, Caron said the School Department should really be putting 5 percent of the replacement value toward repairs, an amount that would allow repairs to exceed the pace of deterioration.

Caron said the strategy of addressing only the most critical of repair needs is also costing the department money in the long run.

“We’re so busy chasing repairs that we never get to do proactive energy projects,” he said.

Caron suggested that, if the buildings were fully repaired, money could be spent on energy-saving projects that would have a financial return.

“Our bond and capital expenses will be greater, but our operating budget would be much less,” he said.

Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski made additional budget recommendations, including the transfer of a high school principal to Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School, the loss of half of an administrative position, and eliminating a full-time bus driver.

If the driver is eliminated, one of 18 existing bus routes would be absorbed by two other routes.

The board also received two petitions asking it to fully fund educational needs. The first, presented by high school sophomore Izzy Jorgensen, was signed by 240 students.

“We are dismayed by the proposal of cuts to AP and Honors courses that propel students into top colleges,” the petition said. “… We keep looking for creativity, but we keep seeing the quality of our education eroded by frayed nerves and frustration.”

Kate Kalajainen of Brunswick Community United read the other petition, and said the group had gathered 683 signatures, which would be formally presented to the board at its meeting on Thursday evening.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or matthh@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hh_matt.

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