The North Kingstown Town Council will be having several meetings at the end of this month and the beginning of next month to . The agenda for these meetings has not been set as of this date but the meeting dates are April 30 at 7 p.m. and May 1, if needed, at noon. Final certification of the budget will be on May 2.
So what can we expect this budget will hold for our taxpayers? This is anyone's guess but we do know that the school budget – if funded at less than the 4 percent increase that has been requested – will result in reductions in many areas. Some feel that these reductions are just a threat to get the parents’ attention to support the budget. Not so.
Over the last three budgets, the school department has cut staffing, negotiated labor agreements that have saved the district hundreds of thousands of dollars, put in place an early retirement program that has already saved the district more than a million dollars, frozen the wages of all administrators for the past three years, frozen purchases and raised health insurance co-share payments to the highest level of any school district in Rhode Island. All of this while our operating cost has increased in the last two years by approximately $2.4 million each year.
While all of this was going on, we had to work to keep our school programs intact and meet all of the state required mandates, many that are unfunded. Yet with all of this we are a high performing school district. Our teachers have received recognition for the student performance that is nationally recognized. We’ve received awards in nationwide testing for results, , had more students of any school district in the Rhode Island All State Orchestra and Chorus, won second place in statewide Science Olympiad for middle schools, won second place in state science testing, saw consistent growth and improvement in the NECAP scores, have a 94.5 percent graduation rate and an athletic program that is full of honor students.
The taxpayers are getting a bargain for their investment in the North Kingstown School District – high performance throughout the district and below average cost for operation and cost per student, 13th lowest in the state. We have an administration that thinks out of the box and is working to motivate all students. The recent school audit done by the town council proved that we are meeting our Rhode Island Department of Education requirements in the Basic Education Programs while being under funded by almost $2 million. You just can't do much better than that.
We are still working to improve the operations of our district and won't stop until the job is finished, but we must protect the programs that we have to be able to continue to produce the excellent results that we have achieved to date. We of course understand that times are hard on some of our taxpayers and that is why we are continuing to work to improve the operation of the district. We have yet again frozen wages of all administrators, are looking into which will help underwrite the cost of operating that building and allow the additional uses for special needs students with state required transition services, all while adding revenue to the district. We have recently added Block Island Schools to our IT department’s list of shared services and continue to look for revenue sources to help underwrite the cost of education in North Kingstown.
I ask for your support by attending the town council meetings listed above and/or calling your council members and ask that they continue to support our high performing education program in North Kingstown. Our future is our students and what they can achieve. Your voice is needed. Please don't let them down.
Kimberly Page, Chairwoman
Richard Welch, Vice Chairman