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By LINDSAY OLIVIER
NORTH KINGSTOWN â 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.
âNone of this is easy to do, but with the reduction of $1.4 million, weâd still be able to go through the mission of educating students,â Auger said. âAnything more, well, that would be a disaster.â
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.
âWe only have discretion of about $12 to $13 million because of major negotiations and contracts,â Auger explained. âOverall, we will be forced to reorganize in many areas and simply do without in others.â
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.Â
The town utimately determines the school districtâs appropriation. Therefore, Auger said, itâs imperative that residents and staff let the council know whatâs important to them so that programs such as after-school academic support, all clubs, music, and sports wonât be eliminated altogether.
Below are Augerâs 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 âdiceyâ and a âsignificantâ 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:
âThis would be one of the worst case scenarios,â Auger said. âI wouldnât want to see what this school district would be like. I canât imagine this happening.â
Augerâs 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).
âWe have talented kids and a tremendous staff,â Auger said. âWe do remarkable things in this district and Iâd like to keep it that way.â
Committee vice-chair Richard Welch made a motion to submit a four-percent increase budget to the town council, but felt âgreat regretâ that it had come to this.
âIf we only have to cut $1.4 million,â he said. âI feel itâs a real win situation if thatâs how far weâd have to go.â
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.
âIâd hesitate to take that away from students.â he said.
Committee member William Mudge felt he couldnât vote for the preliminary budget because he didnât have enough information to go forward.
âBy possibly eliminating the beginning band and strings program, youâd be taking that out of the curriculum and putting it after school,â Band Director Toni Silveira said. âThat would be a failure. During the day we have around 120 students participating in this program. If itâs moved to after school, that number will be cut in half.â
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.
âThis may be out of line, but every week that I sit up here Iâve noticed something and I need to say it,â he said. âI understand that this is a very important topic weâre discussing, obviously, one weâre very emotional about. But the animosity at this table is something Iâve never seen before and itâs getting in the way and thereâs something wrong with that.â
Bauerle said that, as a senior, he wonât be at the high school next year but many of his friends and all the other students will be and he doesnât want their fate to be decided by committee members âlike William Mudge and Richard Welchâ not getting along for three hours.
âI ask you to put the animosity aside and allow business to take precedence over personal feelings.â he said.
For a complete list of Augerâs 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 teacherâs 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.