The budget, prepared by School Superintendent Phil Auger and his staff, assumes North Kingstown will raise local taxes by the maximum legally allowed of 4 percent and will raise its contribution to the school budget by an equal percentage.
Auger said that because most of the school budget is governed by contracts and other legal provisions with built-in cost increases, the approved budget nevertheless requires $1.4 million in cuts.
Among them: reducing or eliminating some teaching, library, and other staff jobs, including a savings of $431,846 in the cost of support professionals. Auger has said if the schools cannot resolve the current impasse and reach a contract with the North Kingstown Education Support Professionals, custodial and food service jobs will be outsourced. Later in the evening, School Committee member Bill Mudge was added to the negotiating team, replacing Joe Thompson, who resigned from the school committee.
The approved budget also slashes school supplies, removes one bus from educational routes, transfers some young adult special-education students from out-of-district programs back to North Kingstown, reduces funds for professional development and ends participation in the National School Board Association.
However, as Auger mentioned, the town has not increased school funding for two years. At the Feb. 7 meeting, Auger also explained the further cuts that would ensue if the town raises its contribution by only 2 percent, and the changes that would be required if the schools receive no increase.
In addition to the cuts already approved, a 2 percent funding increase would require cuts of $868,417, including these: reduction of elementary music instruction, adding after-school music instead; end spending on middle school and freshman sports; removal of spending on high school hockey, tennis, gymnastics, swim and golf teams; reduction of middle school and high school music programs; removal of an additional bus; reduction in spending on cleaning and maintenance; ending the E-portfolio program for graduating high school seniors; and removal of another $200,000 in education support spending.
Level funding would require an additional $716,330 in cuts. To reach that, Auger proposes an end to after-school activities, including athletics; removing a late bus; removing after-school academic support at the middle and high schools; reducing and reorganizing special education services; ending efforts to obtain NEASC accreditation; reducing summer guidance programs; and further reductions in clerical and custodial services.
About 40 people attended the budget session, and nearly a dozen made comments protesting the cuts. Several asked the schools to reach an agreement with NKESP. Several speakers vowed to lobby the Town Council for more spending as well.
Several speakers and School Committee member Melvoid Benson said that the school administrative department appeared to face few cuts in the proposed budget. Auger said that budget includes reduced spending for the athletic director and the director of the physical plant. Larry Ceresi said that the number of administrative positions has been dropping for several years, and that many administrators have had salaries frozen for two years and are paying much more for health insurance.
Regarding the current year budget, Business Director Ned Draper said that the $1.2 million deficit reported in December has eased to about $300,000, in part because expense cutbacks and mild weather.
Richard Welch said that the $6.4 million bond request to repair the Davisville Middle School roof and other facilities, which was approved by the School Committee and the Town Council, appears to be on track for final approval by the General Assembly. If approved, the bond issue will go before voters in the spring unless the town agrees to pay for the middle school roof.