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School Budget Cuts Remain Unsettled

School committee reviewed superintendent's recommendations, but did not agree on actions that would cut teachers, supplies and five high school sports.

Not orange. Not green. Not red. After two hours of discussion and comments from 10 citizens, the North Kingstown School Committee declined 3-3 to approve budget cuts or additions in any category at its May 8 meeting. Larry Ceresi was absent, recovering from back surgery, said Chair Kimberly Page.

With the North Kingstown Town Council increasing the school’s fiscal year 2013 budget by rather than the requested 4 percent, the schools face a shortfall of $848,349 from this year’s budget, due in part to inflation and less of a contribution from state aid.

In response, Superintendant Phil Auger grouped his recommended changes into three color-coded categories designed to shrink the budget to the approved $57,243,694.

The orange category summarizes expenditure changes to the 2013 budget since the school committee originally . These include an estimated food service fund deficit of $186,405, health insurance rate increases of $88,650, criminal background checks on school volunteers totaling $5,000 and $15,000 for texts not funded in the governor’s budget. These expenses were partially offset by reductions in dental insurance, increased early retirements, cutting unused funds, and other savings, for a total of $105,611 in added costs.

The green category has 36 changes designed to wring out $1.2 million in savings. Among them are proposals to reduce teaching positions, transfer teaching positions, cut supplies to the levels actually used this year, cut two buses, reduce the high school library staff, eliminate freshman sports, and eliminate : hockey, tennis, gymnastics, swimming and golf.

Auger said the targeted sports include both male and female athletes, have relatively high costs and relatively low participation, and could continue with private funding, like current teams such as sailing.

The green category also has two new positions: a special education paraprofessional and a part-time “business partnership coordinator” who would build relationships between the schools and the business community and seek advertising, grants and sponsorships. Several committee members and citizens voiced support for the partnership position.

A third category of cuts (the "red" category) totaling $1.6 million will be necessary if state funding, to be announced in June, does not meet expectations and if the schools do not reach a satisfactory contract with the education support professionals union. The labor negotiations are in arbitration.

The red category proposes cut that include eliminating all middle and high school sports and clubs ($484,232), removing four custodians and maintenance workers ($251,497), reducing professional development stipends by 75 percent ($111,963), removing a bus route and eliminating the late bus ($70,000), cutting an elementary school music teacher ($62,500) and reducing support staff, counselors and other positions.

When the meeting adjourned at 10:15 p.m., Auger said he was a little surprised that no action had been taken on the orange and green categories, but there is still plenty of time before the fiscal year begins July 1.

NKGOP Watch May 09, 2012 at 04:57 PM
I have to say I'm impressed how this school committee works together, and they really care about trying to minimize the impact of cuts resulting from town council legal fight expenses and budget cuts. Good luck to the school committee and administration, I know they are really trying.
Joe Smith May 09, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Auger said he was a little surprised that no action had been taken on the orange and green categories Why when the state aid budget has not been finalized, when he and some members of the S/C do not want to answer where all the $2.6M surplus from last year went, and when the ESP arbitration results are supposedly going to come in with savings, etc.?
NKMom May 09, 2012 at 05:15 PM
If the drastic cuts have to be made, as housing prices rise, I foresee many families with young children moving. Low housing prices may keep people here for now, but cuts to teachers, paras and programs and without sports...why would a family with young children stay? The surrounding towns school ratings are rising. NK is no longer a crown jewel or a more economical option to EastG or Barrington...sad really. School funding should be paramount and more than 2% was not too much to ask. As I see it, the future of NK is at stake and we don't have the leaders to do the job right.
NK_Voter May 09, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Again, well said Joe. Perhaps it's time to argue for consolidation of school districts. It is becoming increasingly evident that qualified supervisors--people with vision, integrity and leadership skills--are increasingly rare in education. Many states have Superintendents that oversee many more schools. Perhaps we should join with a more successful school district--lets say EG or Barrington. Pay their Superintendent a bit more, pocket the savings and we could have a win-win.
NKGOP Watch May 09, 2012 at 05:37 PM
What is the status of the 2.6 million surplus? Is it in a bank somewhere, or gone but they wont say how allocated? I dont get it... Meanwhile, the ESP (non teacher union school, employees) BETTER produce some concessions because most RI school districts have already outsourced those jobs from what I understand.
NKGOP Watch May 09, 2012 at 05:54 PM
well NKMOM, what would YOU do if you were the school committee? did you read the budget? you cant reduce the electric bill, the teachers are paid at a contract cost, there has to be a certain number of teachers per pupil, they already cut librarians and para professionals to below where they should be, cant reduce the cost of heating oil or diesel for the school busses, books, food, or any of that. so what would YOU do?
NK_Voter May 09, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Please note that Barrington and other school districts do better academically than NK while spending less per pupil. If throwing money at the problem solved academic mediocrity, Providence would be tops as they spend over $17K per student. They aren't. Why are sports and the arts supposedly on the chopping block? Answer: expanding costs of teacher salaries and benefits. Why do we pay these people more and more, only to get less for our students? If we keep going down this road--a road our SC evidently wants to travel--we'll have higher taxes and average schools--hardly a postitive message. Demand to relocate to NK will fall, as will housing values. We need to change course....more accountability, not just more money.
Concerned Resident May 09, 2012 at 06:17 PM
I find it difficult to comprehend that any suggest that throwing money at issues will correct problems. This seems to be backed by the fact that no one really knows how to read - understand the SD budget. Cost saving are and have been available to the SD and hopefully they will act responsibly. Along with many other RI towns and cities some residents feel that NK can and should tax itself to improve. Wrong, fix the issues that exist starting with out-sourcing, consolidation etc then let’s talk. As far as I'm concerned 2% was too much for the schools.
NKGOP Watch May 09, 2012 at 07:33 PM
NK Voter you started out good then went OFF THE RAILS. "Why are sports and the arts supposedly on the chopping block? Answer: expanding costs of teacher salaries and benefits. Why do we pay these people more and more, only to get less for our students? If we keep going down this road--a road our SC evidently wants to travel--" The first half is right, as I have been saying for YEARS. But "this SC" has gone as far as humanly possible to limit raises and extract more health care copays. They don't, as you errantly say "want to pay teachers more and more", the EVIDENCE in their VOTING RECORD says the opposite. Now, in East Providence, the school board voted to give teachers a 5% pay CUT. The union sued all the way to RI Supreme Court, and LOST. But the VOTERS were attacked with a massive campaign by the unions and that school committee was VOTED OUT. Teachers pay was restored and now they have a new pro union school committee, and immediately went under state fiscal management (just short of bankruptcy). NOW, look at what the NK School Committee was able to achieve peacefully, in limiting the growth of teacher labor costs and in some ways reduce the net cost of teachers through retirement incentives, greater teacher contributions to health and a few other concessions. All without a nasty fight. Get your facts, hack!
Common Sense May 09, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Did you watch the entire meeting? It doesn't appear so. Joe S. the answer to your question about the surplus was stated and it was said that arbitration would not come in until sometime in June. NK_voter when you compare schools look at districts that are equals not opposites demographics are important and have an effect on school performance. Can't wait to see all of you on the ballot in November. Watch the whole meeting instead of jumping back and forth watching the Celtics & Sox.
NKGOP Watch May 09, 2012 at 07:44 PM
Great thoughts CS.
Joe Smith May 09, 2012 at 10:59 PM
CS - I tend to go by what ends up in the audited financial documents) much more than what the S/C or Supt tend to say in meetings. For example, at the meetings that discussed the DMS roof, we heard from the Supt and most of the S/C that the DMS roof will cost $3M -- let's see what the cost from the contractor the town has hired is. I know from the financial documents the SD ended with 2.6M in 2011, of which only 1.1M was reallocated by the town back to the SD formally in the 2012 budget as Mr. Welch did note. The 2011 CAFR also shows that about 150,000 goes into something related to the health insurance. Some of the surplus obviously goes to cover the cafeteria fund deficit and to cover the S/C and SD screw-up about Jamestown tuition. Both issues I hope gets fixed in FY 13. We know $135,000 was re-appropriated in the 2013 budget so both the SD and Town must believe the SD will end up with at least that as a surplus. So, no, I don't know where about 800,000 or so went -- I know that the S/C talked about keeping 2% in reserve and the philosophical difference about whether the SD had to keep a reserve or whether the SD is an enterprise that has the Town of NK (which the SD is a part) as its "reserve." I do agree with Mr. Welch's point that we would save money at both ends if the T/C and S/C were not in court against each other-- but recall it was Mr. Welch and others who turned down the opportunity to do a collaborative workshop program with the Town T/C.
Dave May 10, 2012 at 12:35 AM
I never heard the SC turn down that opportunity, where in the meeting did that happen? If you're the guy i saw in the sc video a few meetings ago pontificating about numbers and the strategic plan in a pompous way, please do us a favor and DO NOT RUN for SC. I still have two daughters in the schools for several more years, and we just don't need another school bashing know it all on that Committee.
Govstench May 10, 2012 at 10:07 AM
NKWatch, you can cut the electric bill. I see a lot of lights still on inside that high school and the parking lot, well beyond 11 pm. I understand the security issue, but you don't need to have all the lights on in the parking lot. This is not limited to the high school - most of them have the lot lights on way beyond 11 pm. That's $$$.
Tired of Tired May 10, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Jim-i mean Joe- let's be honest here. Its not the supt you have issue with it is the schools. You haver been mega critical of any supt in the position since your daughters team wasn't funded all whole giving the tm a free pass. The supt could crap gold dubloons and you'd complain about the exchange rate. Meanwhile the tm fiddles while the town burns and you praise him for the free music.
Common Sense May 10, 2012 at 01:32 PM
J.S. you need to pay much closer attention to what is said at both the T/C and S/C meetings. The $3 mil you quoted has been explained several times you just don;t get it. You also don't understand the surplus cash fund or don't want to believe how it has been used but it has been explained several times here. It appears that you just don't know what it is that you think that you know. Is your real name Jim Mcqwin or Bee? Go pick on the T/C. Look at their budget ther are problems there if you LOOK!
NKMom May 10, 2012 at 01:36 PM
What I find amazing is that most people jump to teacher salaries and benefits as the problem. Arguing that teachers are overpaid is ridiculous. Teachers almost across the board are underpaid for what we expect/demand of them. It is true that bad ones slip through the cracks and those cracks should be fixed, but overall, teachers pour their heart and souls into teaching. They work more hours than most and are truly concerned about the success of our children and the schools. What makes education suffer is morale...same as with any business. Blame the workers enough and the product will suffer. I agree that there are efficiencies to be found in the budget and that consolidating some services could be beneficial. But to baldly argue that b/c NK has higher per pupil spending than Barr and EG and therefore can make more cuts is not the answer. If NK has superior schools and incredible sports teams, but the highest per pupil costs in the state, people would not complain, they would brag. There is a middle ground here and asking people to trust the SC or TC is futile...they've done so much damage to their reputations that there is no confidence that they are capable. I've been through a similar political situation before in another town, it is sad to see it happening here.
Scott Madison May 10, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Yeah, your right. Targeting a union of workers that work 8 1/2 months out of the year whose salary & pensions that take up a vast majority of the budget is just downright crazy...... LOL :P
NKGOP Watch May 10, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Scott EXACTLY!
Common Sense May 10, 2012 at 03:22 PM
J. S. your statement re:collaborative workshop, had me wonder why I didn't remember a discussion on this and checked with a S/C member and that person didn't remember it either. Could you enlighten us as to what you are talking about and how you came by the information that you are refering to. But just to continue this subject a little, why would anyone be interested in sitting with a group that has taken legal action against you, constantly mis-speaks about the facts and reallly feels as you do about schools, teachers and the S/C. It is good to be upset about our taxes, fine, but we need to keep the truth in the discussion. There is plenty of blame to go around J. S. it just depends whether you have blinders on, your rose colored glasses or are willing to see the facts as they are and work to make changes. I see five people trying their best to correct things and move forward all while you and others want to put them down, congradulations you have succeeded. Supporting your S/C and Dr. Auger does not mean that you agree with everything but thoughfull suggestions regarding your concerns would go a long way towards improving relations and moral which also reflects on the staff and students.
NKGOP Watch May 10, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Since McQwin and Bee took the NKTO over from Dr Camarra, they have been over-attacking the school board and ignoring the town council, lost membership and respect and the only question the new NKTO owners seem to produce is "what is your point". Sad. The town council is the real problem here and there is no credible, respectable watch dog.
NKGOP Watch May 10, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Wow well said. I was starting to believe JS and now it is really discouraging to think it is NKTO/McGwin or whomever not playing straight with basic facts. TRUTH PLEASE. I am of course known for hyperbole but I never try to confuse the two. If you are stating a FACT please make sure it is TRUE and an OPINION (like mine that the Town Council and NKGOP are the problem) is just that, an OPINION. But we ALL need to respect the TRUTH and TRUE FACTS. Joe Smith are you hearing me?
Concerned Resident June 04, 2012 at 08:12 PM
an alternative solution: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/01/louisiana-makes-bold-bid-_n_1563900.html?icid=maing-grid10%7Chtmlws-main-bb%7Cdl11%7Csec3_lnk2%26pLid%3D166752

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