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Auger's budget paints grim picture for NK schools

February 10, 2012

By LINDSAY OLIVIER
lolivier@ricentral.com

NORTH KINGSTOWN – The North Kingstown school committee voted 5-2 Tuesday night to submit to the town council a proposed 2012/2013 budget that reflects a four-percent increase. The meeting took a different turn than was expected, however, when Superintendent Dr. Philip Auger became emotional as he presented his recommended cuts.
Committee members William Mudge and Melvoid Benson cast the dissenting votes.
The budget the school committee submitted is one with an increased appropriation of four percent from the town. However, even with that increase, the school department is looking at a deficit of $1.4 million.
“None of this is easy to do, but with the reduction of $1.4 million, we’d still be able to go through the mission of educating students,” Auger said. “Anything more, well, that would be a disaster.”
In addition to the four percent increase budget, Auger submitted two other scenarios of what a two percent and zero percent increase would look like. A two percent increase would result in $2.2 million reduction and a level-funded buget would require $3 million in cuts.
“We only have discretion of about $12 to $13 million because of major negotiations and contracts,” Auger explained. “Overall, we will be forced to reorganize in many areas and simply do without in others.”
Those areas could possibly include reductions in administrative, teaching, paraprofessional, custodial, maintenance, and clerical staff, major reductions in supplies, reducing the capital reserve, and negotiated expenditure reductions from the support staff. 
The town utimately determines the school district’s appropriation. Therefore, Auger said, it’s imperative that residents and staff let the council know what’s important to them so that programs such as after-school academic support, all clubs, music, and sports won’t be eliminated altogether.
Below are Auger’s recommended budget proposals reflecting a four-percent, two-percent and zero-percent increase from the town council this budget season:

A four-percent increase:
n Reducing two sixth grade teachers, one from each of the middle schools, because of a decrease in enrollment would save an estimated $125,000.
n Reducing supplies to 2011 levels would save the district approximately $225,944.
n Adjustments with the NKESP, which are subject to the negotiation process, could save as much as $436,371.
n Reducing two paraprofessionals would save an estimated $70,000.
-The reduction of 1.6 teachers from high school electives would save around $100,000.
-Reducing one bus from the regular education routes, which would require some routes to be adjusted, could save as much as $60,000
-Transfering transitional students from Perspectives Corporation to in-house programs held at the former Davisville Elementary School could save the district $100,000.

A two-percent increase:
Auger called this scenario “dicey” and a “significant” impact for all. It would include:
-Removing four paraprofessionals district-wide ($127,167).
-Reducing maintenance services ($40,000).
-Reducing one elementary music teacher ($62,500), but adding an after school elementary music program at a cost of $15,000.
-Removing middle school sports at both schools ($125,000)
-Reducing custodial services by two ($80,000)
-Removing hockey, boys and girls tennis, gymnastics, boys and girls swim and boys and girls golf ($75,000), (sports chosen because of their low enrollment and high costs).
-Removing freshman sports ($15,000).
-Removing the E-Portfolio component from the PBGR ($85,000).

A zero-percent increase:
“This would be one of the worst case scenarios,” Auger said. “I wouldn’t want to see what this school district would be like. I can’t imagine this happening.”
Auger’s proposal under this scenerio calls for:
-Removing remaining non-contract labor items, which would mean no after school activities or athletics ($330,000).
-Removing ARC after school academic supports at both the middle schools and high school ($17,000).
-Removing four paraprofessional positions ($140,000)
-Reducing clerical and custodial overtime ($65,000)
-Removing the late bus-($10,000).
-Reducing high school special education services by .8-($50,000).
-Reducing summer guidance-($18,750).
-Reducing custodial services by two full-time positions-($80,000).
-Removing NEASC dues and forgoing accreditation ($3,580).

“We have talented kids and a tremendous staff,” Auger said. “We do remarkable things in this district and I’d like to keep it that way.”
Committee vice-chair Richard Welch made a motion to submit a four-percent increase budget to the town council, but felt “great regret” that it had come to this.
“If we only have to cut $1.4 million,” he said. “I feel it’s a real win situation if that’s how far we’d have to go.”
Student member Brent Bauerle wanted the committee and administration to keep in mind how valuable the high school librarian and librarian clerk are to students in that they help with projects, research, book reports and many other things.
“I’d hesitate to take that away from students.” he said.
Committee member William Mudge felt he couldn’t vote for the preliminary budget because he didn’t have enough information to go forward.
“By possibly eliminating the beginning band and strings program, you’d be taking that out of the curriculum and putting it after school,” Band Director Toni Silveira said. “That would be a failure. During the day we have around 120 students participating in this program. If it’s moved to after school, that number will be cut in half.”
The meeting lasted over three hours with many committee members arguing over what they perceived as mis-information. At one point, the debate even sparked Bauerle to speak up.
“This may be out of line, but every week that I sit up here I’ve noticed something and I need to say it,” he said. “I understand that this is a very important topic we’re discussing, obviously, one we’re very emotional about. But the animosity at this table is something I’ve never seen before and it’s getting in the way and there’s something wrong with that.”
Bauerle said that, as a senior, he won’t be at the high school next year but many of his friends and all the other students will be and he doesn’t want their fate to be decided by committee members “like William Mudge and Richard Welch” not getting along for three hours.
“I ask you to put the animosity aside and allow business to take precedence over personal feelings.” he said.
For a complete list of Auger’s proposed reductions, visit www.nksd.net.
In other news, the school committee voted 4-1, with two abstentions, on a draft resolution opposing Contract Continuation-House Bill 7250, which would provide that if a successor collective bargaining agreement has not been agreed to by the parties, then the terms and conditions of the old teacher’s contract would remain in full force and effect until a new agreement is reached.
Benson voted against the motion and members John Boscardin and Mudge abstained.

Source 
Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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