MONROE, CT — Town offices and school buildings have screens, hand sanitizer stations and other personal protective equipment to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and the global pandemic has also led to staffing costs and expenses for the health and police departments.
The Board of Finance recently reached a consensus to create one account for it all, including any reimbursement the town and school system may secure.
“I don’t want people panicking when we’re over budget for things that are not operating expenses,” Chairman Michael Manjos said during a board meeting last week. “At least with everything in one place we can review it every month. I just think it’s a cleaner way to run it.”
Prior to the suggestion, Manjos spoke to Ronald Bunovsky, director of finance for the town and the school district, who agreed with this approach.
On the town side, First Selectman Ken Kellogg said around $16,000 was spent on COVID-related expenses.
He praised Deputy Finance Director Heidi Meade and Police Capt. Keith White, who is the town’s emergency management director, for their work in applying for FEMA coverage.
“Other grants are pending,” Kellogg said. “I agree wholeheartedly with the approach here. For accounting we wanted to have everything in one place. This formalizes it.”
Acting Superintendent of Schools Joseph Kobza said the school district has spent $220,000 in pandemic-related expenses so far.
“I don’t think it’s prudent for Board of Education to manage this,” Manjos said. “We can make this fund and track all the expenses, so it’s also transparent to townspeople that we do have expenses that are not budgeted — and it won’t affect our budget for next year.”
“On the Board of Education side, we’re tracking all COVID expenses within our budget, so to transfer it to the fund would not be difficult,” Bunovsky said. “This certainly would pull everything into one coordinated effort.”
Vice Chairman John Ostaszewski and fellow finance board members Rebecca O’Donnell, Craig Hirsch and Steve Kirsch expressed agreement on the fund.
Kirsch asked if a motion was needed for the board to vote to establish the fund.
“I’m not aware of anything that requires that,” Bunovsky said. “Would it hurt to do it? No.”
“I think it’s okay if we have a consensus,” Manjos said.
Of the $220,000 Monroe public schools spent so far, Kobza said an $85,000 order for PPE, such as hand sanitizers and masks was placed for an estimated three month supply.
The district also bought 300 cameras for a total of $35,000 with cables and tripods, to set up in classrooms for students distance learning at home. Other costs include funding for a nursing supervisor.
Kobza said the video setups have headphones and schools worked to open outdoor spaces, buy tents, and used storage containers to remove desks and chairs from classrooms for social distancing. Custodians did a lot of taping, he added.
Kobza said the $220,000 does not include the biggest expense, which is for personnel and staffing.
Jack Ceccolini, the interim assistant superintendent, has been looking into issues such as COVID-related sick leave and what the impact of the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, which expands paid family and medical leave, will be, according to Kobza.
“The bottom line is you will need to cover for the people who wouldn’t be there,” Manjos said.