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School budget: $33 million

May 26, 2011

By DAVID PEPIN

With a little final housekeeping Tuesday night, the East Greenwich School District completed its $32,988.353 overall budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year.
After agreeing to a $50,000 cut requested by the Town Council in the $30,551,077 school appropriation recommended by Town Manager William Sequino Jr. last week, school officials had some extra work to do after previously cutting $713,713 from the figure they had submitted to Sequino in March. The council’s completed budget will go before voters at the June 14 financial town meeting.
Mary Ann Crawford, school finance director, said the final $50,000 came from cutting $38,636 in the substitute teacher account and $11,364 in 1.5 percent raises scheduled for non-union professional personnel in the district.
The substitute funds could be cut, she said, because of federal Race to the Top money that would fund teachers’ professional development activities and also provide for substitutes on days those teachers miss class.
The previous cuts to the schools’ budget request came were made up by $287,287 in additional revenues, including $60,000 from the district’s fund balance, and $426,426 in expense reductions, over half of which came from teacher retirements and Blue Cross health coverage. Blue Cross did not raise the district’s premiums for the upcoming year.
With the FY12 budget, school officials looked with trepidation toward next year’s budget, which will be drastically effected by the state’s pension crisis. Crawford estimated that teacher pension contributions, which came to $1.3 million this year, could rise by 75 to 100 percent next year,
“The challenges for next year are like nothing I’ve ever seen. With the pension increases, we’ll be right at the cap (state-mandated 4.25 limit on tax levy increase), she said.
School Committee Chairwoman Deidre Gifford said this year’s budget leans on the district’s fund balance and Race to the Top funding, sources that may not necessarily be available next year.
“We’re in the range of $150,000 we’re not going to have next year. We’re losing one-time supplements,” she said.
General Treasurer Gina Raimondo met with the state’s school superintendents last Friday, and will meet with the R.I. Association of School Committees on Saturday in an attempt to let them know what lies ahead.
“She spoke to us in the most general terms,” Superintendent Victor Mercurio said of his peers’ audience with the treasurer, who is taking the lead on the state pension reform effort.
Committee member David Green will represent the town at Saturday’s meeting.
Also, the committee considered putting the district food service contract back up for bids after receiving the April financial report from Aramark, on the third year of a five-year contract. A decision will be placed on the agenda for the committee’s June 7 meeting.
Crawford said the service is running a $21,000 deficit through April, making it more likely the town will have to make up some of it at the end of the school year. Under terms of the contract, Aramark would eat the first $8,100 of any deficit as a management fee, with the district liable for the remainder.
“$13,000 is an awful lot to make up in two months,” said Crawford, who attributed the deficit to increased food and fuel costs, despite an increase in overall meals served throughout the district.
Gifford said the district would be willing to consider an increase in meal prices: $2 at elementary schools, $2.50 at Cole Middle School, $2.75 at East Greenwich High School and $3.50 for the daily premium meal selection.

Happy Hearts Preschool: 25 years in operation and going strong

May 20, 2011

By DAVID PEPIN

Happy hearts, happy alumni, happy teachers.
They added up to plenty of smiles Saturday morning at the 25th anniversary celebration of Happy Hearts Learning Center, 2608 South County Trail, as the preschool’s current crop of pupils ages 2 to 5 mixed with their older predecessors, including a few young adults, and past and present faculty members.

Chafee delivers some good economic news to EG Chamber of Commerce

May 13, 2011

By DAVID PEPIN

While some Rhode Islanders are panicking about the state’s budget and pension crises, Gov. Lincoln Chafee is hoping to win over the business community with a calm, I’ve-seen-this-before approach.

NEIT getting a break from town

May 2, 2011

By DAVID PEPIN

Amendments to the town Zoning Ordinance and Comprehensive Plan to assist New England Institute of Technology received unanimous second reading approval from the Town Council Monday night after college representatives updated town officials on their plans for the growing campus on the former Rocky Hill Fairgrounds site.

When Guv comes to town

April 12, 2011

By DAVID PEPIN

National Reading Week brought plenty of guests to Meadowbrook Farms School last week, from local officials and media members to Olympic gymnasts and “The Amazing Race” contestants.
But the school’s biggest “get” may have been Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who left behind budget crunching and tax debates to play storyteller for a first-grade class.

Hoedgson filling some big shoes

April 4, 2011

With the state's economic stakes raised so high, Dawson Hodgson is not exactly getting a leisurely-paced orientation into the ways and mores of the R.I. General Assembly this year.
“I picked a heck of a year to go into the Senate,” Hodgson, (D-Dist. 35, North Kingstown, East Greenwich), said jokingly after holding a constituent forum at Town Hall Monday afternoon.

Light shed upon EGHS library plans

March 31, 2011

An architectural consultant to the School Building Committee did more than shed a little light Tuesday night on plans to renovate the East Greenwich High School library.
His proposal for the library includes shedding much more light on it, namely by taking down one of its cinderblock walls and replacing it with a window to lend a more airy feel to a library some school officials have compared to a dungeon.

OPINION: Monsters among us

March 24, 2011

BY JONATHAN GIBBS

Looking at my five-year-old son’s fingers triggered a chain of thoughts about the Michael Woodmansee case in church this past Sunday. His are small fingers that have recently lost the dimple near the knuckle that seems to mark his passage out of toddlerhood into full-fledged boyhood. They were wrapped gently around the back of his mother’s neck; and those fingers – and that loving gesture – struck me as heartbreakingly innocent. Unfortunately, I saw them as not just the perfect hands of my beloved son but as vulnerable entities as well.

Accreditation imperiled by lack of library renovation at EGHS

March 23, 2011

By DAVID PEPIN

East Greenwich School Superintendent Victor Mercurio will have a new entrance, administrative and guidance offices, and science labs to show off for the New England Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation when it visits East Greenwich High School April 14-18.
Downstairs, however, lies what could be the Achilles’ heel of the school’s effort to win accreditation for the next 10 years: the library and media center.

Policy to help cops recognize medical needs

March 21, 2011

By DAVID PEPIN

A simple sheet of paper may be a potent new tool for the East Greenwich Police Department to help deal with children with autism or Asperger’s syndrome.
Sgt. John Carter, the department’s juvenile officer, has completed a sheet that parents can submit to police, who will put the information in their database so in the event that officers are called to their home, police will know about the children.

 

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