James McCormick, Mason Superintendent of Schools, appeared at the April 12 Mason Selectmen’s meeting to touch base with the selectmen on his joint proposal to upgrade internet service to Mason Elementary and town office buildings. He indicated that the school’s budget portion had passed and he had a fixed deadline to apply for E-Rate funds this year. E-Rate is a federal program that significantly offsets the cost of internet for schools and libraries. It is is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The selectmen produced their famous “deer in the headlights” look after the superintendent had finished speaking.
Business Manager Brenda Wiley (who handles administration functions for both the town and the school) reminded the selectmen that this issue had come up before and was most thoroughly discussed in a preliminary report by Brady Schulman with the selectmen on January 26 budget hearing. Unfortunately the selectmen made the decision at the time to lowball the costs, only make minor adjustments to some department line items, and include a general warrant “Article 15: To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of Six Thousand Dollars ($6,000) for the purpose of upgrading the Information Technology infrastructure at the Mann House.”
The selectmen viewed their items as “cost saving measures”, the superintendent views his as “technology upgrades”. Apparently the state-wide testing of Mason students currently results in 1/2 of the internet being shut down for the rest of the building as there is already insufficient bandwidth for the test takers.
The superintendent thought there would be more “bang for the buck” if the town and school went in together; yet the selectmen were still in nickel and dime mode and didn’t think that switching the library to an e-rate would reduce costs sufficiently to offset costs. While the police department has made some inadequacy and security statements in the past, they would probably have to fix those under their own line item.
The selectmen asked if this item could be deferred until next year; however, the superintendent reminded them that this was his last year and he couldn’t speak to that. He did however indicate that if there is no action by the selectmen, the school could probably upgrade on its own. He also stated that the current plan was to lock in the rate for three years, which might complicate future timing of a joint venture.
How many years did it take to get a joint town/school annual report?