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School committee ready for Plan 29

January 13, 2012

SOUTH KINGSTOWN – Last year the South Kingstown School Committee set out to find a way to save the school district money without jeopardizing the quality of education. One year later as it begins to develop the school budget for FY 2012-2013, the school committee is ready to start putting that plan in motion. That plan is Plan 29.

One night before the school committee met with the town council to discuss the $290,000 proposed capital budget for the school fund, the school committee discussed the factors facing them in the FY 2013 budget year.

As they develop the $58.8 million budget, the school committee expects to receive $420,000 in job funds money and $375,000 in group home aid from the state. However, they assume a reduction of $537,458 in the state funding formula, which is further increased by the reduction of student enrollment and a drop from $800,000 to $600,000 in Medicaid reimbursement from two years ago.

For the preliminary budget, the school committee assumed a two percent increase from the town, which would balance the budget. At one percent increase, the school committee will have to cut $482,164. At zero percent appropriation, the committee will have to cut $964,327.

After the school committee resolved collective bargaining agreements with the three school unions, National Education Association-South Kingstown, South Kingstown Educational Support Personnel and Council 94 last summer, the school committee assumes three year wage freezes for all three groups and health co-pays for SKESP and Council 94 of 15 percent and a health co-pay between 15 to 20 percent for teachers at different steps in NEA-SK.

Like the municipal program, the capital improvement program for the school fund delays projects scheduled for the 2013 year an additional year due to the poor economic climate. For FY 2012-2013, the school capital budget is $290,000 of the total $1,867,000 capital budget program. At the joint town council and school committee meeting Wednesday night on the school capital program, Stringfellow explained that although there appears to be a $120,000 increase in the program from last year, the difference is due to a 70,000 pre-paid purchase made in 2011 for computer labs.

The major projects for the 2012-2013 school capital program include a track resurfacing of $135,000, network hardware replacements and elementary computer labs. Last year the cost to resurface the track was $85,000, but since that time maintenance needs have increased, which has risen the costs to $135,000. Stringfellow said if the track is put off it would either become even more costly or rendered unable to be used for track meets.

For 2013, elementary computer labs will cost $35,000 and network hardware will cost $25,000.

Since the school capital program has increased $120,000, Town Manager Stephen Alfred said his concern was that “as you look forward to the budget, the CIP is part of it and you're looking at a sizeable increase. It would be helpful to get better detail on the number of computer labs. We need to find if we're putting enough money into the CIP or too much.”

As they develop the school budget, at the forefront of the school committee members’ minds is implementing Plan 29. Last year, a special ad-hoc committee, the Reconfiguration Action Committee developed a plan to reconfiguring the school district to make it more efficient and cost saving for the next budget year. After weeks of study, RAC proposed and the school committee approved Plan 29, which would take 120 students from the largest elementary school, Peace Dale and redistrict those students so that the four elementary schools have an equal population. With the opened up space at Peace Dale, the committee recommended moving the pre-school program from the Hazard building next to Peace Dale. Plan 29 was estimated to save the district upwards $200,000.

“I’m looking forward to bringing [Plan 29] back this budget year to see if it still makes sense,” Stringfellow said Tuesday night. “I have pre-school teachers and parents in Peace Dale ready to plan if you’re ready to go forward with Plan 29.”

“It’s an appropriate time to close the loop on where we are with the current budget. I think it’s a viable discussion,” Vice Chair-person Dr. Anthony Mega said.

“We’re at a different point than where we were last spring,” Committee member Raisha Mosher said. “I think that committee was formed to look out into the future. It’s important for us to figure out where we’re going.”

Many committee members expressed a priority in housing the pre-school program under one building. Committee member Kevin Jackson suggested using the South Road School, which is currently closed, as a site for the pre-school program.

“I don’t want to bounce kids around,” Jackson said. “We have to figure out something to do with South Road School.”

Stringfellow said she will provide cost scenarios next meeting on the difference between housing the pre-school program at Peace Dale or South Road School. They also discussed the possibility of expanding the alternative high school program at the Hazard School and whether funds could be acquired from students coming from other districts. Committee member Stephen Mueller pointed out, however, that districts around the state are trying to figure out how to educate students without sending them out of district.

“Even if there’s a need for an alternative program, that may be for a limited time,” Mueller said.

In other school news:

The school committee approved the 2012-2013 calendar amidst much discussion.

The calendar leaves on two snow days and ends June 28 as a result of Election Day, professional development days and the Jewish holidays.

The next school budget work session is scheduled for Jan. 31 at 6:30 p.m. with the location to be determined. The town council will adopt the final capital improvement program on Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m. The final school budget is due to the town council on Feb. 14.

Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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