Taxes vs. School Programs Dominate Budget Hearings

Residents, students and others took to the microphone during Monday night's budget hearing.

With another year of property tax hikes on the horizon and possible slashes to school programs, the North Kingstown Town Council and School Committee held their budget hearings Monday night at the high school.

The preliminary budget for fiscal 2013 (starting July 1) projects a — raising it from $17.26 per thousand to $17.81. For the average priced home in North Kingstown (approximately $333,822), that would result in a $5,942 tax bill.

“I can’t afford any more taxes. I’m not rich. I’m not wealthy,” said State Rep. Doreen Costa, who told the town council during public comment that she has a and works at a restaurant on Friday nights, in addition to her duties at the State House.

Rollingwood Drive resident Jeff Zucchi and his wife moved to North Kingstown five years ago from Indiana after doing their “due diligence” and comparing taxes between the two states. What the Zucchis didn’t factor in, he said, was the local taxes, which Zucchi said are now prompting them to reassess living in North Kingstown.

“We would like to stay, but the numbers continue to go against us,” said Zucchi.

Local taxes were also an issue for another resident, but for a very different reason.

“Sometimes, I don’t think I pay enough taxes,” said Gigi Edwards of Saunderstown. “How much are my taxes maybe going to go up to save something that we as a community really need and want to keep?”

Under the preliminary budget, no services would be slashed, and the school department would get its requested 4 percent increase. According to Superintendent Phil Auger’s projections, if the school department is level-funded again this year, the district’s elementary school . According to Auger, anything less than a 4 percent increase would “significantly impact” the school department’s ability to provide extracurricular programs.

“We’re talking about 4 percent,” said Jennifer Johnson, a mother of a North Kingstown High School student. “Are our kids not worth 4 percent?”

“When we spend money on schools, that’s not money that’s wasted,” said resident Gregory Blasbalg. “That’s an investment.”

The school department’s and also came up during the hearing as Dick Bee lambasted both the Town Council and School Committee for “allowing the schools to get into this position.” Bee also called for Auger to be removed as superintendent of the district.

“Please put an end to his Napoleonic actions,” said Bee.

Not all speakers were critical of Auger’s job performance. Among the approximately 100 audience members, 20 North Kingstown High School students sat in the second row. Almost half of them took to the microphone, including Auger’s children, Jim and Emily.

“I’m really, really proud of my dad,” said Emily Auger.

Students, including Auger’s children, urged both the council and School Committee to preserve the schools’ extracurricular programs, including its robust music program. Last weekend, the , taking home eight awards.

“If you cut any of these things it will take opportunities away from kids, not only to vent how they feel or how to express themselves,” said NKHS student Dan Caramante. “It’ll strip them of a post-high school opportunity, like a scholarship at a college.”

Another student, junior Jessica Fournier, suggested cuts at the administrative levels or the suspension of cost of living adjustments (COLA). Following the School Committee’s public hearing, members of the board praised the students’ poise and ability to articulate their points before a “group of adults.”

“You kids are amazing,” said committee member John Boscardin. “I never would have had the gumption, the desire or the guts to stand up and speak the way you’ve spoken this evening.”

“It’s always easier to build a boy or girl than to repair a man or a woman,” said committee member Melvoid Benson.

Paul Marshall April 11, 2012 at 08:42 PM
@ Peter: Good anvil analogy. Don't forget to factor into our expenses the damage done to our vehicles by the roads-the salt and potholes are expensive-I just got my truck back from the welder. $1000 for a 12 y.o. truck. The frames rust out prematurely. Tires and front ends are damaged. Tie rods, ball joints, shocks and even windshields all add up. @nkgop: valid points. Welch refuses to renegotiate contracts. "Too much trouble". Easier to hit the electorate with spin and threats. Tired of the "we MAY have to cut sports and arts" threat yet? It's worked on us since the 70's. OUCH.
Concerned Resident April 11, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Town paid SD audit savings - ignored. SD discussed savings - ignored. NK residents - screwed.
NKGOP Watch April 29, 2012 at 02:58 PM
If you think this school committee "has proven incabable of budgeting" then you "have proven incapable of putting down the crack pipe.". - You have NO CLUE what you are talking about. Simple as that.. And the voters, they APPROVED the school bond referendum.
Dave April 29, 2012 at 05:53 PM
You left out a few details. The Town took in over 6 million new tax dollars in the past 3 years, the schools got a little more than .5 million of that. Do you understand the implications of that?? The Town with a FAR smaller budget than the schools, has taken all the new tax dollars from the local taxpayers for three years. AND they have failed to fund the buildings fund to pay for repairs of the buildings. YEs, the school budget went up, because of the stimulus, not something anyone asked for, just something that was sent (and IMO) dug us deeper into the hole we're already in. Now the stimulus has gone away, and the Town taxpayers have faced repeated increases in their taxes that have not gone to support the single most important item to the value of the town and to the value of our homes, the schools. There WAS mention of the increases in fed funding at SC meetings, watch the videos and you will see it. There was no increase in state funding, there was a DECREASE, while the state increased their own budget by 5 to 6% per year. Dr Auger has been nothing but transparent, stop trying to run the man down with half truths.
NK_Voter April 29, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Actually, Dave...I didn't leave anything out. There was no mention of the state or federal budget in this discussion--only Dr. Auger stating that the Town hadn't given the schools an increase in 3 years. What I wrote happened. It shows that Dr. Auger either 1) is ignorant of the budget. 2) mispoke, or 3) doesn't let facts get in the way of a good story. His response to Mr. Embury's correction was that his information didn't show this, so I'll go with either 1 or 2. If you wish to add details, Please do so...as you did. As you state, the school budget has actually continued to increase with the addition of federal funds. As these go away, the school will be forced to cut back. I don't know why you have this fixation to compare the town and school budgets. Meaningless. The town has it's priorities; the schools theirs. The town has to build the reserve as the budget grows to keep a good bond rating so we don't pay through the nose for high interest rates on school bonds. Many of the town roads are in poor condition--these need to be funded. This costs $. Interesting to note that teachers used to volunteer to help kids afterschool. Now we pay them. I don't know about you, but If I can't do my job in the shift I am given and stay late to get the job done, that's my fault--I don't get paid for it. Perhaps this is yet another reason why school costs keep increasing? I don't understand why you constantly compare


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