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Council, school board worry about future of education

March 19, 2011

SOUTH KINGSTOWN—With state funding to schools decreasing, the South Kingstown town council and school committee worry about the future of the town’s schools and education, hoping to not cut programs from the students at the school budget public work session Tuesday night.
Over the past few weeks, the school committee has been hammering out its budget, having to reduce the budget by $644,000 without cutting programs to the students. The total budget of the school department is $58.43 million.

Although town councilman Jim O’Neill insisted that the school department close a school this year to save money, the school committee said it wanted to take its time closing a school, working with the community, parents and teachers to determine what the best route is. The school committee has developed a strategic plan community focus group that will report to them in June about which school is best to close and the community impacts. The committee would then implement the changes for the 2012 to 2013 year. The committee hopes to not make a decision on school consolidation under the pressure of developing a budget in crisis mode.

“I think you should be closing a school now. It should be Curtis Corner. I think you’re putting off the inevitable. I don’t understand the delay here. I’ve begged for planning for years,” Jim O’Neill said.
“We’re taking a step back and working with the community. We’re hoping that by having community consensus, we can develop our district,” Maureen Cotter, the chairwoman of the school committee said.

At the budget work session, Superintendent Kristen Stringfellow described the expenditure assumptions, focusing on changes in original assumptions. She said health insurance costs, which was projected to increase by $697,995, has been reduced by $300,000. Transportation was originally more than $108,440, but due to an awarded bid was reduced by $150,000. Utilities have increased by five percent to $40,158.

Another increase in expenditures include the pension, which increased by two percent to $512,437. For certified teachers, the pension rate was 11.25 percent as a result of pension reforms, but has increased to 13.23 percent, which is an additional expenditure of $371,000. For non-certified teachers, the pension rate was 6.20 percent, but rates have increased to 8.59 percent or about $141,000.

Stringfellow also pointed out that the district full-time employees from 2007 to 2011 has decreased. Certified teachers have decreased by 32.7 percent and non-certified teachers have decreased by 28.2 percent. There was a 0.5 percent loss in administration. The total decline in full-time employees is 61.5 percent.

For more information pick up a copy of The Narragansett Times.

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