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Sci High not expected to face water fees under S&WB’s new billing system

A newly mandated Sewerage and Water Board system for charging schools based on individual water consumption will have no affect on Sci High’s 2013-14 budget, according to school finance manager Claudia Kent.

The new billing system will see schools paying for water consumed in excess of four gallons per person per day, Kent’s report presented at the board of directors meeting Thursday  said. The Sewerage and Water Board has not been billing schools for water and sewer service since Hurricane Katrina.

From July 1, 2012 through July 1, 2013 Sci High used 2.2 million gallons of water, placing it well below the threshold of 6.2 million gallons that would trigger payment. Consumption figures include both students and staff and were provided to schools by the S&WB.

Kent said Sci High is in good shape concerning this issue, but that schools with large lawns or fields could be paying upwards of $25,000.

With the first week of classes coming to a close, school leaders were pleased with nearly perfect enrollment-to-attendance numbers. Co-Principal Chana Benenson said the school has 410 students enrolled and had 393 students in the building.

“We’ve never seen attendance like this – classes are full,” Benenson said. “We could fit up to 410 students consistently here every day, we don’t want to go over 420.”

She noted that teachers are comfortable with the current class sizes being from 22 to 25 students, with as many as 28 students in some classes.

Noting that the school’s cash position is better than it’s ever been, board treasurer Jim Schneiders proposed establishing a reserve fund to be kept separate from other funds.

“We could make ourselves more disciplined,” Schneiders said. “It could psychologically serve to have better adherence to the budget. That money’s not there to be blown, and hopefully it will grow and could be good if we’re looking for a new facility.”

To break down who could access the funds and when, board chair Mary Zervigon said she would need to lay out the type of emergency situations it could be used for, such as the boiler going out or other large issues that could occur between board meetings.

If the funds are restricted, they could be released by the co-principals and two authorized signatures, Zervigon said. She noted this approach best fits the emergency purpose, since if the board is involved, there needs to be a meeting held with a quorum, along with 24-hour notice given to the public, making the swift use of the funds difficult.

“This is what we’ve been doing anyway. Let’s make some rules on how to spend and segregate it, and show it on the balance sheet,” Zervigon said.

Schneiders said he would meet with the co-principals and the finance manager to discuss an amount, and come to the September meeting with more detailed language prepared.

The meeting ran from 4:39 to 5:38 p.m. The next meeting of the Advocates for Science and Mathematics Education is scheduled for Sept. 19 at 4:30 p.m.

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