It’s not even 2013 yet and town and school officials are forecasting another tight budget year for fiscal 2014. At their Monday joint night meeting, the North Kingstown Town Council and School Committee saw presentations from both the town manager and school superintendent highlighting the upcoming fiscal year’s forecast.
For Town Manager Michael Embury, the upcoming property revaluations could mean a significant drop in property tax revenue for the town. According to Embury, initial estimates are projecting a 10 percent reduction in real estate values.
If the 10 percent reduction holds (revaluations are still ongoing, so this figure is subject to change) and the town doesn’t cut anything from last year’s budget (i.e. expenditures remain the same), then residents would be looking at a $19.38 tax rate – almost $2 more than the current tax rate of $17.51. If the town raises taxes to the cap this year, it could mean a tax rate of $19.99 per $1,000 assessed property value.
“The days with doing more with less are long gone,” said Embury. “At some point, we’re all going to have to readjust our expectations of what our government can do for us, whether it’s on the town or school side.”
The school department is projecting drops in revenue for fiscal 2014, including a decrease in tuition money from Jamestown for students who attend North Kingstown High School. According to Superintendent Phil Auger, the school department will likely also face health insurance rate hikes of 12 percent. Also on the horizon is a new contract with the teacher’s union, which is set to expire in the next budget year.
The expansion of housing at Crossroads in North Kingstown will also put a burden on the fiscal 2014 budget as Crossroads is estimating that an additional 47 students will move into the complex and attend North Kingstown schools. Though federal funding is slated to come along with these students, the school department won’t see those funds until fiscal 2015.
During the meeting, School Committee Member Bill Mudge suggested a possible source of relief by requesting that the state legislature no longer mandate charter school funding. Under current laws, each school department is mandated to pay tuition to send in-district students to charter schools.
“If we’re a high-performing district, why are we sending our students to charter schools?” said Mudge, who estimated the cost was about $8,000 per student. In total, about 80 kids are sent out of district to charter schools