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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.

School Budget Cuts Remain Unsettled

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.

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