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School budget: $33 million

May 26, 2011

Budget is set

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.

“The food is good, and I’d hate to see us drive Aramark to the point where they buy less expensive food if we can make a small increase in the price of lunch to balance the deficit,” she said.
In other business, the committee:
Authorized Schneider Electric to negotiate an ESCO plan to help set fixed costs for the district’s electricity and energy needs.
Tabled until its next meeting a Governmental Accounting Standards Board policy on spending and fund balance.
Adopted a resolution to be sent to state legislative leaders in opposition to legislation allowing teacher contracts to continue in force after their expiration date.
Honored National Merit Scholarship recipients David Bui and Han Xu; National French Contest award winners Kathy Luo, Katarina Diepholz, Will Emery, Wei Li, Angela He, Emily Rhodes, Kaley McMullen and Alan Mason; and R.I. School Social Worker of the Year Sharon Foley,
Accepted the retirement of Frenchtown/Meadowbrook Farms teacher Maureen Maggiacomo.
Approved a field trip for the Cole Purple Team to Lake Compounce in Bristol, Conn., on June 17.

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