SOUTH KINGSTOWN-It appears the challenges newly elected local politicians face in the coming years include working harmoniously together for the benefit of South Kingstown, and of course, the budget.
Echoing his campaign theme for general assembly, Spencer Dickinson said he wants to focus on changing the ‘business as usual’ feel within Rhode Island’s statehouse.
“We are not at the point where we can solve problems. We have to change the way we do things first,” said Rep. Dickinson, who was re-elected on Tuesday.
He’s optimistic about getting the job done in South Kingstown, but as he often mentioned in his campaign, Dickinson says the real change must take place at the statehouse level.
“We have a legislation that is not one for problem solving. In reality, the stuff that counts, they’re not doing it. We have to clean up the house and change how to do business and that’ll be difficult because I’m in a small minority of representatives that feel the same,” Dickinson added.
“The legislation is dysfunctional, there’s bad habits. Rhode Island is fiftieth in the business climate, second in unemployment. We are not at the point where we can solve problems. We have to change the way we do things first,” said Dickinson.
Dickinson believes that a team of new and seasoned legislators will work well together for the better of the community in South Kingstown.
“We have a very compatible group centered around a new Democratic party and we’re going to be working together in a friendly way,” said Dickinson. “I’ll be taking cues from the town council and the school committee. I think the best part is we will communicate well with each other and work well with each other. It doesn’t mean we will agree on everything but I have a good feeling about the people we have.”
Current Town Council President Ella Whaley also kept her seat on the council with a victory on Tuesday.
Whaley described a broad arrange of issues that she wants to concentrate on next year.
“Balancing the budget. Maintaining the quality of life in South Kingstown. There’s the Route 138 project to finish and we have to keep working together on the Matunuck erosion. There will be some changes to Dale Carlia Corner, repairs to High Street like repaving and drainage improvements,” said Whaley.
“Keeping taxes low. I really want to keep our quality of education high,” Whaley added.
One idea Whaley is working on with re-elected school committee member S. Scott Mueller is a specialized budget committee just for the schools.
Whaley suggested the new budget committee would involve two school committee members and two town council members and perhaps two other concerned citizens coming together to hammer out a budget that benefits South Kingstown education.
“There are financial challenges that face the school district,” said the re-elected Mueller. “South Kingstown will lose $350,000 to $400,000 over the next four years because of the state aid formula. The school committee is struggling, so is the town council and our citizens. How will we ensure that public education continues to be of quality? We need to coordinate better budget development planning. We need to look beyond the budget year 2013.”
Re-elected school committee member and local educator Michelle Brousseau-Cavallaro described some challenges the school committee will face in 2013.
“I think we need to continue to maintain our high quality of teachers and administrators. The ‘Bring Your Own Device’ to school project is a wonderful idea, but we need to handle it properly, diplomatically, for the haves and have-nots. I want to make sure the students receiving financial help are handled with dignity.”
“One of the things we have here in the United States is free public education. It levels the playing fields. I think we need to continue to do a good job,” Brousseau-Cavallaro added.
Newly elected school committee member Jonathan Daly-LaBelle is optimistic about South Kingstown’s future in education.
“The challenges South Kingstown faces are the same throughout Rhode Island and the United States. Due to the nature of our community, we’re well positioned to deal with those challenges,” said Daly-LaBelle.
In an email sent to The Narragansett Times Thursday, Hagan McEntee was straight forward.
“The biggest problem facing South Kingstown and for all of RI in 2013 is money. In these tough economic times the balancing act between keeping taxes low while providing quality services is the main issue,” McEntee wrote, adding, “This year we were able to maintain high quality services with a ZERO tax increase but this was not an easy challenge. I predict that it will be even more difficult this coming year because of the educational funding formula and the reduction of state aid.”
Newly elected councilwoman Meg Healy sent an email stating her passion is battling erosion in Matunuck, but she also wants to keep her eye on the budget as well.
Re-elected Town councilman Jim O'Neill also has a positive outlook for 2013.
“I was really proud, from a financial standpoint, of the zero increase in property taxes this year, the schools are doing well. I know my job in 2013 is for the council to keep up the good work,”said O’Neill.
The winners that gathered on Tuesday night left a positive impression on Representative Dickinson.
“We had an agreeable get together Tuesday night. We’ll be keeping the lines of communication open. We have, in place, an excellent administration in this town, they’re exceptional. We’re lucky in South Kingstown. The issues are going to be dealt with and I’ll follow along and take my cues from them.”