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By LINDSAY OLIVIER
NORTH KINGSTOWN â€“ â€śYouâ€™re not going to like what Iâ€™m about to say, but first and foremost, let me tell you that this isnâ€™t what I want and it hurts me deeply.â€ť
Those were the words spoken by school superintendent Dr. Philip Auger at Tuesdayâ€™s school committee budget meeting in reference to the 2012/2013 budget.
Tuesdayâ€™s meeting, which was the first with newly sworn in school committee member John Boscardin, was just a preliminary discussion on possible reductions for next yearâ€™s budget. In two weeks, Auger will come before the committee and the public with specific lists. Current numbers given by the town council puts the school department at a shortfall of $1.6 million.
A hot and emotional topic among committee members and district employees has been discussion on possible outsourcing of custodial and cafeteria work. Itâ€™s an idea Auger is taking a hard look at.
â€śIt bothers me that I have to look at possibly doing this,â€ť Auger said. â€śEspecially after Congressman James Langevin was just in our district this week praising the work our cafeteria staff is doing. But we could save around $400,000 just by outsourcing. Itâ€™s impossible, in my opinion, to say no to that.â€ť
One reason outsourcing is at the top of Augerâ€™s list is because, for the past few years, the cafeteria fund has been running a deficit of $150,000 and the school district hasnâ€™t been able to balance it.
â€śNorth Kingstown is the only district in the state that doesnâ€™t outsource cafeteria workers,â€ť Auger said.
The school department has a budget of around $58 million budget and $48 million of that are items that can not be reduced, like contracts, healthcare and mandates from the state. Like past budget seasons, sports and the arts have come up as possible areas of reductions. Auger said he doesnâ€™t see the district coming out of this budget season without touching sports.
â€śMy children are involved in drama, music and sports,â€ť he said. â€śIâ€™m a musician myself and it breaks my heart that I have to even think about this. But I have to be fair and look at everything.â€ť
Enrollment is projected to continue its recent decline, mostly in grades nine through twelve. Anticipated revenues include income from local taxes at a four percent increase, a total of $2,059,800 in tuition from Jamestown and others and $475,000 from Medicaid which is included in general revenues and has declined due to reimbursement rates.
As for projected expenditures, 84 percent covers the majority in salary and benefits and also includes the uniform chart of accounts (UCoA), professional development, supplies and technology.
To give the committee members and the public a better handle on the upcoming budget years, the school department has developed a five-year budget projection for planning purposes.
In fiscal year 2012 the total education expenditure is anticipated is $58,444,485. In 2013, that amount is expected to rise to $60,365,177. By 2016, it is expected to be in close to $66 million.
Revenue projections, meanwhile, are expected to be $58,092,043 for 2012, $58,470,503 for 2013 and $63,568,140 by 2016, meaning that, for at least the next four years, the school department is expecting to have to contend with a deficit.
Budget meetings are scheduled to continue on Jan. 24, with two meetings planned for February. Auger hopes community members will attend and voice their opinion on whatâ€™s important to them.