The North Kingstown School Committee approved the superintendent’s proposed $59 million budget with a 6 to 1 vote (Bill Mudge opposing). The budget, though tentative, assumes that the school department will receive a four percent increase in taxpayer funding – the most allowed under state tax caps. Adding to the cuts approved last week, the committee approved the elimination of one school bus. According to Superintendent Phil Auger, this cut would not impact start times next year.
Mudge did not agree with approving of the proposed budget assuming a four-percent increase and asked that the budget sub-committee be given more time work on the numbers and find further cuts. (The sub-committee is set to meet again later this week.)
At the request of Town Manager Michael Embury, Auger and School Business Director Mary King put together a list of potential cuts that would represent a two-percent increase in funding and another that showed cuts if the school department was level-funded. To reach the zero-percent increase mark, the schools would need to make almost $1.8 million cuts from this current year’s budget.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, Auger presented $1.1 million in possible cuts. Among those cuts was a $560,000 slash, eliminating North Kingstown’s athletics programs.
Committee Member Lynda Avanzato opposed the idea, citing that extracurriculars (including athletics) on a student’s transcript heavily factor into college admissions. Auger, citing studies, said that students who play sports are more focused on school during their respective season of play.
“Imagine the kids who would flock to private schools if sports was eliminated,” said Auger.
Another proposed cut was the elimination of all after-school activities to the tune of $100,000. Funding for the updating of textbooks would also be reduced by one-third ($25,000). The proposed cuts would also reduce money allocated for supplies, maintenance, equipment and building improvements. The district’s webpage coordinator would also be eliminated, along with one high school teacher and fifth grade music program.
One area of cuts that Auger was considerably leery of proposing was reducing the number of nurses in the district. Currently, each of North Kingstown’s eight schools had a dedicated nurse. Under the potential cuts, two of those nurses may be eliminated, resulting in one nurse covering more than one school.
“If that nurse was at the wrong school at the wrong time and something happened, we would really regret making this move,” said Auger.
The list of cuts Auger presented Tuesday night are about $580,000 short of what is needed to result in a level-funded budget. According to Auger, he felt it “irresponsible” to list any further cuts, such as consolidating the number of principals in the district.
“As my responsibility as superintendent, I cannot say these things would be good for the community,” said Auger. “It would irresponsible to suggest them.”
Auger warned that, if the school department was to receive a zero percent increase in funding from the North Kingstown Town Council, it could jeopardize the district’s ability to qualify for the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accreditation.
“If we went to that level of cuts, chances are we wouldn’t get NEASC accreditation,” said Auger.
According to Auger, the NEASC visit for accreditation costs around $60,000 and is expected to occur in the 2013-2014 school year.