For years, East Greenwich elected officials have cried foul when it came to state funding allocations, arguing the town did not get its fair share. The state may have gotten the message.
School officials told the Town Council Monday night at what was billed as a "pre-budget meeting," it looked very probable schools would receive $425,000 more than last year in state aid to education.
EGSD Director of Administration Mary Ann Crawford said the figure should stay unchanged, unless state legislators decide to dismantle the education funding formula – unlikely since it only came about last year after several years of effort.
That said, with built-in add-ons, the EGSD budget – by far the largest portion of the town's expenditures – will go up 3.5 percent next year, Supt. Victor Mercurio said. The schools portion of the budget for Fiscal Year 2013 (from July 2012 through June 2013) was $31 million. The overall town budget was $51.7 million.
According to Mercurio, enrollment is exceeding projections. The New England School Development Council (NESDEC) projected enrollment in EG schools for 2012-13 to be at 2,351 students. Instead, EG has 2,432 students as of January 2013.
In addition, he said, there are additional expenses both internally and externally imposed that will need to be part of the budget discussion.
The first of those is a commitment made by the School Committee last year to find the money to move the third graders up to Hanaford and Eldredge in fall 2013. The original plan was to move the students last September, but the School Committee decided to postpone the move due to an uncertain budget picture.
The other possible district-prompted expense would be outfitting each high school student with individual computer tablets – going to a 1-to-1 program. While that would save money in textbooks in the long run, the upfront costs could be considerable.
Mandated expenses include preparations for the new PARCC test, a standarized test that must be taken online using a computer. The PARCC, which will replace the NECAP, begins in 2014.
Another mandated expense is the teacher evaluation system every district in the state is required to implement. There are expenses in that program related to both conducting the evaluations themselves and to ensuring teachers are prepared.
The School Committee will begin meeting with school principals and other "budget owners" in coming weeks to refine their budget projections. The Town Charter mandates the School Committee forward a budget to the Town Manager by March 15.
Also according to Town Charter, the Council must adopt a budget to recommend to the Financial Town Meeting by May 15.
The School Committee meets next tonight, at 7 p.m. in the library at Cole Middle School.
The Town Council meets next on Monday, Jan. 14, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.