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School Committee gets nowhere with sports cuts

May 10, 2012

By LINDSAY OLIVIER
lolivier@ricentral.com

NORTH KINGSTOWN – When the North Kingstown Town Council approved its fiscal year 2012/2013 budget last week, what got appropriated for the school department wasn’t what the district had hoped for and now begins the arduous task of making millions of dollars of reductions.
The school committee asked the council for a four percent increase and instead only received two percent.
“I do appreciate the increase,” said Superintendent Dr. Philip Auger. “But we now have to reduce much more than if we only received a four percent increase.”
That “much more” figure is a total of $2.7 million and, at Tuesday’s school committee meeting, Auger presented a list of recommended reductions, all of which he said he was “dreading.”
Before any reductions could be discussed, however, $186,405 had to immediately be added to the $2.7 million budget gap because the oft-discussed cafeteria fund is once again showing a deficient.
An outlined reduction sheet was available to the public at the meeting and can be viewed on the school department’s website (www.nksd.net). The information is broken down into sections with the “green” section identifying $1,241,324 in reductions that could be put into effect immediately.
They include:
n Reducing maintenance supplies ($25,000).
n Reducing clerical overtime ($30,000).
n Removing two buses from regular education routes ($120,000). If a second bus is eliminated, however, bell times with at all of the district’s schools could be affected, with the high school bells having to start five minutes earlier and the elementary and middle schools beginning five minutes later than they are currently.
n Reorganizing the athletic director’s position ($54,650). This position will then be filled by two current teachers spending a portion of their day dealing with athletics.
n Removing high school freshman sports ($15,000).
n Removing funding for the high school’s hockey, boys and girls tennis, gymnastics, boys and girls swim, and boys and girls golf teams ($30,768). These sports could continue, but only through private funding.
n Reducing music/theater/drama in K-12 by 40 percent ($7,370).
n Reducing afterschool music programs by 25 percent ($7,400).
n Reducing a 0.5 librarian and a librarian clerk at the high school ($70,000).
Auger also recommended hiring a high school business partnerships coordinator at a cost of $37,678. This person would only work 19 hours a week with no benefits but would be tasked with creating business advertising partnerships.
“We have quite a bit of space on our athletic fields that these businesses could advertise,” he said. “With private money coming into the district, it’ll help us out a great deal.”
The red section of the handout represents another $1,643,020 in reductions but Auger wanted to wait to vote on that section until the ESP negotiations are complete and the actual number of state aid is determined. Those numbers won’t be known to the school district until mid-late June.
If one of those items come in as expected, $1.6 million will be able to be restored to the budget.
Below are some of the red section reductions:
n Further reducing maintenance supplies ($34,336).
n Removing two custodians, a 0.5 at DMS and a 0.5 WMS and a 1.0 at the high school ($113,884).
n Removing one maintenance worker ($81,313).
n Removing remaining middle/high school sports and middle/high school clubs ($484,232).
n Reducing four paraprofessionals district-wide ($140,000).
School Committee member John Boscardin thought hiring a business partnerships coordinator was a great idea but was troubled by the possible reductions of the library staff.
“I have a soft spot for librarians,” he said. “I’ve learned so much from them and it if wasn’t for librarians, I may not have gotten my college degree.”
Like other residents and committee members have done in the past, NK resident Jill Johnen urged the district to look at consolidation with the town to minimize redundant services.
Music teacher Toni Silveira informed the committee that if the strings and band is eliminated from the elementary school level, it would interfere with the curriculum and the music program will fall apart.
“If it comes to it, then extra music programs need to be cut,” she said. “But not programs that are part of the curriculum.”
Auger wanted the committee to vote on the first two sections of the reduction sheet and hold off on the red section. However, after a long evening of back and forth discussions, the committee was deadlocked.
Boscardin, Kimberly Page and Lynda Avanzato voted in favor of Auger’s recommendations, with Melvoid Benson, William Mudge and Richard Welch casting the dissenting votes. Because the vote was tied, the motion failed.
Committee member Larry Ceresi was absent.
For now, the committee will delay any further discussions until its next meeting but school district attorney Mary Ann Carroll reminded all in attendance Tuesday that the district needs a balanced budget by the end of June.

Source 
Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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