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.