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Changes to Town Charter Could Reduce Number of School Board Members

The North Kingstown Town Council is looking to change parts of the town's charter, including reducing the number of school committee members.

Should the North Kingstown School Committee be reduced from seven members to five? Voters may be faced with that questions come election day.

Over the past few months, the North Kingstown Town Council has been discussing and deliberating a handful of topics in the town's charter to re-examine and possibly change. Six topics were sent to the Charter Review Commission this spring for study.

Among the suggested changes was reducing the number of members on the town's school – a measure that the majority of the commission opposed.

“Four of the commission members felt that even though there has been some controversy with the school committee, there should be seven member as approximately 70 percent of the town budget funds the school department and the required educational programs and mandates,” said Nick Dewhurst, chair of the commission, in his report to the council.

According to the commission’s research of other municipalities across the state, 16 communities have seven members (including South Kingstown, East Greenwich and Portsmouth) while 14 have five (including Barrington, Narragansett and Coventry).

Amongst the other proposed changes is the institution of term limits for elected officials and appoint commission, committee and board members. The commission recommended that no person can serve for more than 12 years on a particular board, commission, committee or council – similar to the restrictions imposed on elected officials in East Greenwich. Additionally, they could not be reelected/reappointed to that body for two consecutive years thereafter.  Most cities and towns do not impose term limits, according to the commission’s findings.  

Another area the commission studied as amending the charter to grant the  town manager authority to appoint and dismiss department heads. The majority of the commission recommended there should be an “advise and consent” on the part of the town council, but voted against requiring the town manager to seek the council’s approval. The charter currently allows the administration of the town to be done without the interference of the council.  

The town has until Aug. 8 to submit questions for the November ballot. The council plans to vote on whether the questions go to voters at its July 30 meeting.

Govstench July 25, 2012 at 05:08 PM
7 intelligent, diverse minds coming together to discuss and decide upon school- related issues is better than 5? Not sure about going down that road.....Dropping two off the board would save taxpayers money. There is no correlation between enrollment and committee size however. That is a reach.
E July 25, 2012 at 09:45 PM
I disagree, and have yet to understand what the rationale behind the change would be. Yes, saving taxpayer money, but surely there are other ways to save money that should be considered besides this! I'm sure political afficionados could think of MANY other ways to save tax dollars.
Govstench July 26, 2012 at 12:14 PM
North Kingstown is in the top ten ranking of highest property taxes. Granted, over 75% of that bill goes to the school system. Having seven on that committee is large and when you have some of the members not showing up to the meetings, you have to wonder why bother having seven. The committee has started to implement cuts to the school budget and more will be needed. I don't believe this town should go through another two years of political grand standing that has turned the taxpayers off. Some of those who would not bend to change have decided not to run which may produce some positive results and hopefully the newcomers will bring a restore a positive climate to this committee and something can finally get done. The budget is still too fat and needs cutting. It's the political will of this committee that will be put to the test next year.
NKGOP Watch July 26, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Gov, NK is in the top 75% thats great!, RI is in the top of a bunch of categories, top DUI, top Drug use, and top hostility to business (great for reducing traffic during the commute). I'm sure our sister state is Albania, another failed Communist enclave that will never change. Oh wait, they did! That puts on top of yet another category! Did we elect that "Rolling Green" <=what a name! guy yet?
Govstench August 05, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Erin, there are a host of ways to save tax dollars - municipal as well as school. When you start the process, the howels begin. "Don't cut my program, don't cut music, don't cut sports, don't cut the library. Or don't cut the town services as we need them. How high do the taxes have to get before people wake up? Government, whether it is municipal or state CAN and SHOULD be trimmed. You had better hope the pubic unions lose their pension case in superior court as there is no way cities and towns can pony up $100 Million dollars in this environment. There would be NO services and even some school shut downs if they prevail. The numbers do not lie.

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