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School Department Tops Budget Concerns

Speakers voiced worries over next year's budget at Monday night's meeting.


Residents took to the microphone at Monday night’s Town Council meeting to air concerns over the upcoming budget in the last public comment before the council looks to adopt the fiscal 2013 budget this week.

The major bone of contention was the funding of the School Department, which is seeking a 4 percent increase in its appropriation after two years of level-funding from the Town Council. The four-percent increase (almost $2.3 million) would ensure the protection of school extracurricular programs such as according to Superintendent Phil Auger.

“We’ve looked at this budget very closely and looked at what we need, and what we need is a 4 percent increase,” said Auger during public comment.

Council President Elizabeth Dolan read an excerpt from a resident email asking the council to grant the increase — but do so without increasing taxes.

“If we had a pot of gold some place, we would be funding everybody fully — services, towns, schools,” said Dolan. “But we don’t have a pot of gold.”

Town Finance Director Trish Sunderland calculated the tax rates for different scenarios for funding the school department, ranging from level-funding to 4 percent.

Increase

of School Budget

Tax Rate

(per $1,000)

Average Increase to Tax Bill 0% 17.28 $6-7 1% 17.41 $50 2% 17.53 $90 3% 17.65 $130 4% 17.77 $178

If the requested increase is not granted, the School Committee will be forced to cut the only discretionary area of the budget — sports — as items such as teacher salaries are guarded by contracts from cuts, according to School Committee Chairwoman Kimberly Page.

“The difference between a 2 percent increase and a 4 percent increase is the difference between mediocre schools and high-achieving schools,” Page said.

Students and parents railed against the repercussions program cuts would have to students as they apply for college. Kathleen Hess, a Brown University professor and North Kingstown resident, pointed out that colleges look for students who are well-rounded with a slew of activities on their resume. According to Hess, four students were accepted into Brown University — due in part to the quality and quantity of activities provided by NKHS.

Rollingwood Drive resident Jeff Zucchi called for the School Committee to return with alternative cuts that did not result in extracurricular programs being cut.

“Why is it that the School Committee can’t come back to you to come back to us with options that don’t take the activities away form the kids? Bring us options,” said Zucchi.

For some council members, recent budget woes have left them a bit leary of fully funding the School Department. Last December, the department announced it was anticipating a possible . At the last School Committee meeting, Auger said the department is now projecting a surplus.

“I want to support the school’s request, but the change in their numbers over the last few weeks has made me question it, and the difficulty in reading their budget is problematic,” said Town Councilman Chuck Brennan.

The council looks to adopt the budget Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. at . If needed, the council will also meet Wednesday night.

Jennifer Prouse May 01, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Why should the home owners have to foot the bill for everyone's children to play sports and have extra curricular activities in school. While I understand the importance for children to play sports and have other activities I do not feel it is the communities responsibility to provide that for them. You had a child, it's your responsibility to provide those extra things. The schools depend on the community too much, they used to fund raise and do things to help raise the funds themselves, they don't seem to do that any more. Teach the children they can't have everything they want free of charge, if they want it they need to work for it.
Concerned Resident May 01, 2012 at 08:33 PM
The residents are not determining what needs to be cut, the SC, Super, Admin and teachers are determining what if any cuts will be made. Money has and is being directed to areas other than the kids programs.
MeanE May 01, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Fundraising still happens at the high school, but I am with you. I have said before that parents have paid for extra curricular activities throughout their child's life. Then they get to high school and they are free? I know that it is not politically correct to say "pay-to-play", because there are families that can not afford it and parents would expect their children to actually play if they are paying for it, but it certainly should be considered. Problem is that Smithfield tried it and the ACLU fought against it saying that it violates state law! Can't remember how it all played out, but I don't think anyone has challenged it since 2009. If you can't pay, you go out canning and fundraising until you make enough money to play. I got a paper route when I was 13 to earn enough money to buy used hockey equipment and pay to join the league. It can be done.
Joe Smith May 01, 2012 at 09:46 PM
“The difference between a 2 percent increase and a 4 percent increase is the difference between mediocre schools and high-achieving schools,” Page said. I love how the SC chair will throw out a statement like that without any objective data to support the conclusion. So, if we all agreed to an override and increased by 6%, would we have an incredible, #1 HS in the state school? Look at the sports' budget; factor in how much gate receipts, booster/3rd party funding, and rental income -- and compare that to how much we have had to take from the general school funding (on average 150-200K) to cover the cafeteria losses for the last few years. The food services director stated to let them have one more chance to run the program without the need to take from the general fund -- and did anyone on the S/C object when the Supt moved money to cover the projected deficit on April 13? Why in the Supt's proposed budget as shown on the NKSD website for example does it show Hamilton elementary losing 15 students, yet having an increase of almost 800K in personnel costs? The chart says conversion of 4 positions from edujobs to general fund -- okay, but the people under the edujobs cost 600K while I assuming the same 4 positions now under the general fund cost $800K? The problem with this SC is they let a lot of handwaving and general comments go by from the administration without doing any analysis..and the hard questions that come up get squashed by the chair.
ru4real May 01, 2012 at 10:21 PM
SC chair is living in lala land. The taxpayers might do themselves some good by checking into the graduation stats, such as how many students actually receive full bonafide HS diplomas vs. how many are at the graduation ceremony for the photo op. Summer school is often the road to receive a diploma and remedial courses are virtually a given for many students in their freshmen college year. I must have just arrived from another solar system where I thought school was for receiving an education and extracurricular activities were exactly that, extracurricular not a passport from the BB minor leagues to the AA farm team. Lost my head, I missed the good professor's comment, thank goodness for well rounded cashiers who can't make change without the help of the automated register to think for them. It's no wonder we have a country where we make virtually nothing and import virtually everything from China. Mr. Brennan's comment is on the money (pun intended). The school budget is a document deliberately constructed to hide reality. The taxpayers of NK must demand a budget which everyone can understand, plain language and plain arithmetic. "We The People" need to take back control of this convoluted process which continuously short changes both the students and the taxpayers!
SoxFan May 01, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Anyone else having trouble viewing the Town Council meeting video? Can't view last night's or tonight's.
NKGOP Watch May 02, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Kim Page is a Halley lover. With that level of stupidity, what else do you expect? - Also, remember travelgate on ABC6? KIM PAGE tried to weaken the mileage reporting that was being abused to steal money. Thats KIM PAGE all teh way, loves Halley, looks the other way on theft of town money.
Dark star May 02, 2012 at 01:12 AM
As Dolan said, that Wadovick report can be interpreted in different ways. One thing not left to interpretation is that there is a structural deficit of over 1 million dollars in the school budget, yet Auger, Page Welch and Avanzato never mention that. The only person to openly discuss it at the last SC meeting was Boscarden the new guy. How can the Supt. and Chairwoman plead for more money when there is a built-in deficit? They are purposely ignoring that fact in an attempt to mislead the public.
CBA May 02, 2012 at 11:37 AM
Wow! That comment about "handyman Boscardin (who probably can't even do labor math to start with)" was nasty. Is that type of comment really necessary to get your point across?
NKGOP Watch May 02, 2012 at 05:58 PM
boscardin was on here giving that sort of static to the school committee for 2 years. now the shoe is on the other foot. watch him at the meetings. mr knowitall doesnt appear to have even done his homework. he got appointed to an important board that runs our schools. do your homework mr boscardin and produce some good ideas and take a position.
Tom May 02, 2012 at 10:00 PM
Great ideas. Why not have the kids and parents pay for their school books. I walked to school, why not park all the busses. Paper route, another great idea. Oops, no more newspapers, that's why we are reading the Patch. Today's kids should have the same opportunities we had.
NKGOP Watch May 08, 2012 at 05:16 AM
Specifics? Didn't think so....

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