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Outsourcing Leads the List of Proposed School Budget Cuts

Superintendent Phil Auger explained the projections of growing budget shortfalls to a mostly silent school committee at Tuesday's meeting.

When it comes to reducing school expenditures, "I don't see any easy items," reported North Kingstown School Superintendent Phil Auger at the Jan. 10 meeting of the North Kingstown School Committee.

The budget work session provided a first look at a draft budget for fiscal year 2013, and included projections for the next five years.

Auger spoke for nearly half an hour, explaining the factors that have placed North Kingstown schools in a budget shortfall for this fiscal year and on a path to future deficits next year and beyond.

Unless major cuts are made, he said, the 2013 school budget will fall short by $1.6 million – and that's if the Town Council increases funding from local taxes by approximately 4 percent.

The town has frozen school spending for the last two years, and after , Auger said, he sees a 4 percent increase as unlikely. Without it, the 2013 budget loss could balloon to $2.4 million.

Most of the $58.5 million budget – 84 percent – goes to salaries and benefits, Auger said. Most of that is set by contracts that he cannot amend.

One contract that has been under negotiation since 2011 is with the North Kingstown Education Support Professionals, which includes custodial and cafeteria workers.

At a previous school committee meeting, Auger said the current school budget assumed that contract would be finalized and yield substantial savings. Instead, the contract impasse has contributed to this year's budget problems.

Auger said he expects to propose outsourcing custodial work, which is projected to save $400,000 annually. "Four hundred thousand dollars is huge," he said.

He is also prepared to outsource food service, which has been running deficits of $150,000 per year. "It is incredibly difficult to say no to outsourcing the cafeteria."

But, he said, those savings do not equal even half of the projected $1.6 million deficit for 2013.

Auger's next items for consideration come from the rest of the budget's $12 million that is discretionary, and not set by contracts or laws. He said high school administrators are looking at creating larger classes that would require fewer teachers, and he expects to cut professional development and after-school support groups.

Next, sports and extracurricular programs will face reductions.

Looking ahead, Auger said, budget projections assume that school enrollment may fall slightly, a statewide trend, and state and federal funding will not increase.

According to Auger, while the loss of a few students scattered through the system results in less revenue, it does not cause an equal drop in fixed costs.

The superintendent said he and school committee leaders will continue to and the town manager, who are also grappling with a difficult economic climate. "We need to be respectful of one another," Auger said.

Auger said he expects to have a plan soon to address this year's budget gap. The school budget lacks a capital improvement fund, he noted, which means that maintenance items such a new roof at the must be funded by .

Most school committee members, including newest member , had no comments or questions for Auger. Melvoid Benson and Bill Mudge were absent. Committee Chair Kimberly Page asked about art funding, and Richard Welch urged the community to contact the Town Council if they had concerns about the school budget cuts.

Once the town sets its annual contribution, he said, "The die is cast."

About two dozen people, many of them school support employees, attended the meeting and four spoke against outsourcing.

Mike January 13, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Actually, all the numbers I listed were facts. When one predicts future actions, this can't be a fact--it's an opinion. Yes, the school dept has cut admin staff and gotten some small concessions in the recent past. But note that the teacher count has been fairly steady despite falling student numbers. Dr. Auger himself said that he couldn't touch contracts, thus only had $12M of the est. $60M budget 2013 to cut from. That tells me he isn't looking for concessions from the unions--thus will cut student programs. Yeah--it's all about the kids. BTW, Mr. Welch may be your hero, but to me he's a big part of the problem.
NK WATCH January 13, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Town Council pays a $15,000.00 retainer fee per month to their attorney School Committee pays a $4500.00 retainer fee per month to their attorney Who’s over paying?????????
Mike January 13, 2012 at 01:43 PM
What's your point? What's the workload and job requirements for each position? Apples to oranges...
NK WATCH January 13, 2012 at 01:57 PM
The fire department has: 1 Fire Chief, 4 Deputy Fire Chiefs, 9 Captains and 19 Lieutenants. The police department also has a chief, Captains, Lieutenants, etc. etc...... Town Manger Embury (AKA Little Caeser) is the Head of Public Safety (i.e. head of police and firethe chiefs report to him). why not CONSOLIDATE the police and fire chiefs positions in with the Head of Public Safety position and have the deputy chiefs report to the Head of Public Safety. that is a proper chain of command and eliminating just those 2 positions saves $300K in salary and benifits, pension cost healthcare etc......
NK WATCH January 13, 2012 at 02:04 PM
mike, my point is that we should all be shedding light on the school department AND the town council! in reading these blogs it seems some have a very narrow view on things. you are right, both attorneys deal with very different issues that reqiure specfic areas of expertice in their trade......again lets cut the politics and shed light on EVERYTHING!
NKtaxPAyerAlso January 13, 2012 at 02:57 PM
And we pay Dan Kinder .. Let not forget him
NKRI Transparency January 13, 2012 at 02:58 PM
It would seem that all should be consistantly looked at not just when we have to. Until recently I was not sure about Embury now seems that he is attempting to run things some what as a business would......not sure if that is all bad.
seed and soil January 13, 2012 at 05:34 PM
The core issue in all of this is the unsustainable public employee pension system. Poor decisions made in the past by politicians more concerned with their popularity at the polls instead of long term health of the municipalities has us all in this crisis. The only way out is legal challanges to undo errors from the past. I was just about to pitch this week Standard in the recycle bin - but before doing so - will share the specifics Dick August included in this weeks piece. These stats point out very clearly that THE TAXPAYER NOT THE PUBLIC EMPLOYEE pays the vast majority to these funds. NK taxpayers paid in 63.6% more, or an additional $1,342,424 above and beyond what municipal employees paid into their pension system. Teachers paid in $2,960,658 toward their pension - town and state paid in OVER $5 MILLION - OR A WHOPPING 93.4% MORE than the teachers. Mr August goes on to point out that the figures he presented don't even address retirement benefits or other benefits, mainly healthcare insurance. Mr August...hope you don't mind - but to lift your text directly writes "North Kingstown taxpayers paid $1,203,348 toward an annual net cost of $3,058,590 resulting in an unfunded liability of $4,5 million at June 30, 2011." So there it is folks - the core issue that MUST to taken on and recified - UNFUNDED LIABILTIES. And it appears the only way that can be achieved is via the courts to undo errors from the past. Kudos DA & ST for helping keep all informed!
Mike January 13, 2012 at 06:12 PM
NK Watch: I'm all for transparency, but my point to your post above this one stands. You inferred that the town was wasting money with a 15K lawyer retainer vice the School's 4.5K retainer. My point is that these "facts" are without context, therefore useless. If the Town lawyer needs specialized or broad expertise and has a a higher caseload, then he deserves the higher retainer/pay. If you can show that the caseloads/expertise are similar, then I would agree the Town is wasting money. Context is important. I like the Public safety idea--it should be looked at.
NKresidenttaxpayervoter January 13, 2012 at 08:29 PM
@NK WATCH thats interesting, is there additional compensation for the town manager to be the the public safety director?? and don't we pay a EMA director also?
Nkfamily100years January 14, 2012 at 05:35 PM
We need to establish a NK EDC. With all of the smart business minded people in North Kingstown I feel we can tap this resource, form an EDC and build up post road in the North End. More tax money + No students= LOWER TAXES. Its not a spending problem in North Kingstown, Its a revenue problem>
NKGOP Watch January 14, 2012 at 06:12 PM
WHO is DA and ST?
NKGOP Watch January 14, 2012 at 07:16 PM
" Its not a spending problem" So you think paying teachers almost eighty grand for a job with ten weeks a year off THEN paying TWO MILLION MORE to them as a defined benefit pension, is NOT overspending? How much are equally qualified, often better preforming, private school teachers paid? HALF. Have you ever heard of the "free market" per chance? That includes competitive LABOR rates too...
Govstench January 15, 2012 at 03:37 PM
In reviewing the town manager’s report for 2011, it listed the total enrollment at 4,367 students. With $61,099,845 in expenses, the cost per pupil (CPP) is $13,991. What is interesting is the fact in 2002, the total enrollment was 4,395 students, total expenses were $45,838,057 and the CPP was $10,430. The $3,561 difference per student is no doubt contract driven, where further cuts need to be made. It would be interesting to see what the teacher/staff population was in 2002 vs 2011. 373 Teachers and 4,367 students, ratio of 12:1. 29 administrators 205 support staff. Average 9 year spending ratio - education to municipal - 63.1 to 36.9 cents of every tax dollar. There is still quite a bit of fat that can be cut from this budget - contracts can be reopened at any time. The administration is supposed to run this operation, not the unions.
Mark Williams January 15, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Comparing private school educational outcomes to public school outcomes is sort of misleading. Private schools essentially control their 'product' in ways public schools cannot: choice of students who parents are highly motivated and the ability to expell students without hestitation if they so wish are two major factors. Public schools have to educate all students regardless of motivation and background. Furthermore, state regulations now insist that even public school students who commit serious enough violations (e.g. assault with a weapon) and can be expelled are still required to be educated by the school district. I attended both public and private schools in both the US and UK so I can personally attest that the learning environments and choice of students are much better in the private realm. That said, I agree that private school teachers get paid less but the figure is 1/3 less not 1/2 (http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d09/tables/dt09_075.asp). Bottom line for me as a public school teacher is that I would take lower pay if teachers had more control (like they had 50 years ago) and charter and/or private schools took the least motivated students. Then you would likely see inprovements in educational outcome in the public settings and the brilliant charter and private schools would turn those unmotivated students right around, no?
Govstench January 15, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Mark: Assaulting anyone with a weapon, especially in a public school or other venue would enable any student under 18 to punch their ticket into the training school in Cranston. There simply is not enough of a deterrant to wake some of these kids up.
Mark Williams January 15, 2012 at 09:09 PM
No guarantees unfortunately in terms of a stretch inside the training school, especially if it's a first offense, but yes, many children don't seem to know that there is a line that one can cross that automatically means a punishment of some sort. When I was a youngster I knew when I had crossed the line and took my lumps if I got caught! I can't help but think that many parents are dropping the ball and ironically teachers, as civil servants, are expected to 'parent' errant youth while not really having the proper power to do so. That is what I was referring to before in terms of being allowed to be a pre-1960s/1970s teacher with a pay cut. However, I also believe that the pool of people who can teach is not limitless and that cutting down teachers too far could, in some years ahead, result in a shortage of teachers, particularly in the inner cities.
NKRI Transparency January 16, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Mark, appreciate your comments but in the end homes, businesses and government needs to work within it's mean. Do you have thoughts how all or some can be accomplished without raising taxes?
Mark Williams January 16, 2012 at 04:52 PM
I don't believe I have mentioned raising taxes. The thrust of my argument is simply a question of priorities. If you are asking me how I would fill the approximately $400,000 hole that outsourcing would fill then I suppose I would look at other areas. To me this is a political battle and someone's priorities win over others. In previous comments here I also mentioned giving teachers more power ito deal with discipline (and parents more responsibility to accept that) in return for lower pay. That would fill the hole.
NKRI Transparency January 16, 2012 at 05:39 PM
I understand that you did not mention raising taxes. I only mention this as from I am reading, it seems that it is what is expected to fill the gap which ultimately exceedes $400k. I very much wish that many if not all had worked in private industry to gain an improved understanding of lean principles. In the beginning most people feel they are doing all they can working hard doing the best they can...............constructive alternatives afford people positive change, efficiencies and cost reductions. I must admit it frustrates me to hear some of the comments by the probable (direct and indirect) affected as change can be good.
Mark Williams January 16, 2012 at 05:58 PM
I agree with you in terms of positive change and being creative, etc in finding solutions that cut the fat and have positive outcomes. Your are assuming, however, that this is not occuring at, for example, NKHS. I ran a student-based business for many years that provided profit/monies to modify the behavior of oppositional youth until the plug was pulled by the school committee. Also, I would invite you to come in and personally witness how hard the kitchen workers work. I worked in the private food service industry for many years and can make a fair comparison. There are also many teachers who worked in the private sector and I could introduce you to them so you could get their perspective. For example we hired a gentleman recently, to teach business-related courses, who worked for IBM for 30 years. I/m sure he could offer some perspective. That said, one has to consider that our 'product' includes forced attendence by children until 18. Those students who refuse to learn properly affect the outcome...in the business world poorly quality is rejected...we cannot do that by law.
NKGOP Watch January 16, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Mark you make a good point, in my favor though. First, 1/3 or 1/2 the private teacher obligation does not include a defined benefit pension of up to TWO MILLION during retirement. Second, expulsion should be used after several intervention attempts to weed out destructive influences that drag down the rest of the learners, in any type of school. If intervention and counseling works then by all means save the kid but if he's a punkass determined to disrupt, then out the door and dont come back. WE have an obligation to the rest of society including to educated them in an environment free of threats by criminal delinquents.
Govstench January 16, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Mark, parents have become whimps regarding correcting their children. I think parents have tried to pass that off to the teachers. Also, the excuse of having the DCYF come in on a child's complaint or threat may be another excuse. For me, if I had a child pulling that, I would have their bags packed and waiting. The teachers in the inner city have it really bad - worse of the worse students and a higher burn out rate. Many try to escape to the suburbs.
NKRI Transparency January 16, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Mark, I am very appreciative of your comments. I would like you to be aware that after my parents, I had some great teachers that influenced me even to this day. You constructive writing and thoughts cause me to reflect to days gone by. I too worked in the private food industry during my college years finishing as night manager for 2 different establishments. The first business I worked closed for justified reasons. My professional career included working my way up to upper management positions including managing 2 different businesses with P&L responsibility. Through school and town meeting’s etc I have never heard negative regarding NK kitchen workers adding that I have hear obvious planted student comments during several meetings. Via comments and dialog I will take your word as I can not readily judge NK school kitchen staff. As you indicated that you have also worked in the private sector I would like to ask what you would do if the business you were invloved with was failing? With respect to failing I will include that the people are good hard working people but spending is exceeding income.
Mark Williams January 17, 2012 at 12:05 AM
Thanks for your remarks. Not sure what else I can add anymore in this forum. You keep asking me the same question and I keep trying to answer it, apparently not to your satisfaction. I do believe in balanced budgets if that helps. Perhaps if you tell me your name we could talk in person. I am available to receive visitors at the high school.
NKRI Transparency January 17, 2012 at 02:10 AM
I'd be less than honest if I said I wasn't disappointed, have a good night.
seed and soil January 17, 2012 at 03:13 AM
DA=Dick August ST=Standard Times
Dave January 17, 2012 at 01:10 PM
Mike your bias is showing. I never said Welch was my hero, I simply pointed out the fact that he showed up at a TC meeting and shamed them into cutting raises. The SC cut everyones raises 2 years in a row now, and also rasied their co-pays to 20%, in addition to eliminating 2 levels of longevity. They introduced an early retirement program which saved lots of money. But bottom line, the only fact that counts is that the Town raised taxes to the cap and took all the money 3 years in a row. The schools havegotten almost nothing in 3 years from the town. Therefore, the schools ate all the increases in costs. The numbers are in the towns audits on the town website.
Dave January 17, 2012 at 01:14 PM
Mike, the point is you are aksing for the teacher's union to make additional concessions. They are the only union in town who has made substantial concessions. Perhaps the TC should have pressure applied to them to ask for concessions from their unions, since they didn't get anywhere near as many concessions as the teachers agreed to.
Mike February 01, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Well stated. Nice to see facts vice rhetoric.

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