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Exeter-West Greenwich Regional School District Superintendent Dr. Thomas Geismar has an expression he likes to refer to that prevents him from overreacting to bad news.
â€śI always say to myself, donâ€™t cry before youâ€™re hurt,â€ť Geismar said in a phone interview yesterday afternoon.
Itâ€™s that mindset thatâ€™s keeping Geismar from worrying about the changes proposed by Gov. Lincoln Chafeeâ€™s announcement Tuesday evening that his budget plan for FY2012 includes the Rhode Island Department of Educationâ€™s (RIDE) new funding formula, a formula that at first glance appears to advocate for slashing $319,428 from the amount of state aid EWG gets.
â€śWell, my first gut reaction is that it shows us losing funds, which is never a good feeling for a superintendent,â€ť Geismar said. â€śWhat Iâ€™m not sure about, is if every aspect of the funding formula is folded into the amount that I see is the recommended amount for our district.â€ť
Itâ€™s those questions that prevent Geismar from fully forming an opinion on Chafeeâ€™s decision â€¦ at least for the time being.
Gov. Chafeeâ€™s spending plan for 2011-2012, which was unveiled Tuesday in an address to the General Assembly, calls for an increase of over $17 million in state aid to schools. The bulk of that money would go to selected suburban school district and many urban school districts, including Providence, which is projected to receive over $2 million more next year, and Cranston, which is slated to receive an additional $1.5 million, bringing those two districtsâ€™ total costs to $177 million and $32 million, respectively.
Regional school districts, meanwhile, are projected to be hit hardest. Chariho, for instance, is slated to receive 26.9 percent less state aid money than before, for a loss of $100,529.
And while Exeterâ€™s loss is less than that, percentage-wise, the district is slated to receive $319,428 less than last year, for a 4.9 percent cut, something that worries Geismar significantly. Especially considering he just got his budget passed by the School Committee Tuesday night and that budget, which still has to be approved by voters in Exeter and West Greenwich, included just the bare-bones bottom-line items the district couldnâ€™t do without.
â€śWell, yeah, I mean anytime you lose money itâ€™s going to be hurtful,â€ť Geismar said. â€śAnytime you lose, it hurts and weâ€™ve got a lot of great things going on and we want to continue to have them going on.â€ť
Geismar is quick to explain, however, that the district may not actually be out any money, at least for now.
While itâ€™s true that the funding formula calls for EWG to receive money in state aid, a $32 million federal program meant to protect jobs in education might offset some of those costs for the district.
â€śWe do have some federal jobs money that can help,â€ť Geismar said. â€śI donâ€™t think thatâ€™s rolled into that money which if Iâ€™m right and itâ€™s not, the federal jobs money for next year would help offset the $300 and some thousand dollar cut.â€ť
Geismar also points out that, as of right now, itâ€™s unclear if the funding formula includes some â€ścategorical funding for transportation for our districtâ€ť and whether or not it includes a regional bonus as well.
â€śI need to nail that down to understand what the full effect is,â€ť he said. â€śIâ€™m hoping that with the jobs money, it will at the very least be on about a level with what we anticipated getting with the state. We just had our budget approved by our school committee last night and Iâ€™m hopeful that our budgeted amount, with the jobs money in it, would be comparable with what we budgeted for.â€ť
Even if the federal money does offset the losses proposed by Chafee, Geismar knows thatâ€™s just a temporary solution, one the district will have to live without in the future.
â€śI donâ€™t want us to lose any money,â€ť Geismar said. â€śWeâ€™ve got so many good things going, we donâ€™t want to lose resources that can help us continue to achieve.â€ť
Exeter isnâ€™t the only local district losing money under Chafeeâ€™s plan, either.
North Kingstown, which is still in the beginning stages of its budget process, is projected to lose $163,538 bringing the districtsâ€™ total amount of state aid from $10,344,125 to $10,180,587.
North Kingstown Superintendent Dr. Phillip Thornton was unavailable for comment yesterday afternoon.
For more information on how NK is reacting to the proposed cuts, pick up a copy of next weekâ€™s Standard Times.