Eight-percent decline in federal grant funds may take effect
EAST GREENWICH — Midway through Tuesday’s meeting inside the Cole Middle School library during the budget discussion, East Greenwich School Committee member Carolyn Mark made mention of the ‘S’ word that drew some concern with her fellow members.
No, not that one.
“Our first read of this budget (last week) was pre-sequestration,” Mark said. “How will that now affect us going forward?”
The issue regarding the recent implementation of reducing federal spending has caused uneasy feelings throughout the country, let alone in East Greenwich. With the government planning on slowing spending by approximately $85 billion during this fiscal year, Mark and the other members of the School Committee wanted to know what impact it will have on the School District’s 2014 fiscal budget.
Maryanne Crawford, the School District’s director of administration, addressed the School Committee stating that the sequestration will affect the federal funds the School District will receive. As she understands it, Crawford said that federal fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30 and the federal funds the School District receives are applicable for that fiscal year, therefore the sequestration will affect the schools on July 1 – the start of the new fiscal year in East Greenwich.
Crawford said that these particular grants are for 27 months and each year, there is a little bit of a “carryover.” She stated, from what she has been told and everything continues to trend toward sequestration, the cuts
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will be about eight percent of the grants, or close to $50,000.
Crawford said the School District could’ve amended these grants to ask for more money, but chose not to in anticipation that the sequestration would take place. However, based on the carryover, Crawford said the School District “will be able to support the grants to the amount they were currently budgeted for this year and even more for those grants that are funded for some portions of salaries for teachers.”
“That’s good news,” Crawford said. “A lot of the other school districts were following the same format because we were told about this back in September to keep our eyes open.”
But, Crawford said both she and Superintendent Victor Mercurio received via email mere hours before Tuesday’s meeting in relation to the School District’s Qualified School Construction Bonds (QSCB), a particular program the School District applied for Cole Middle School, where it may be a possibility that the reimbursement will be lower than what the schools were getting before.
The reason, Crawford said, for the lesser amount to be received was because the interest rate of the bonds was at zero. She tried to get in contact with the person who sent the email in the hopes of finding out what kind of financial impact would transpire, but couldn’t get in touch with the person prior to the start of Tuesday’s meeting. Crawford did state the revenue from that bond comes from Town revenue.
“I didn’t see this coming,” Crawford said. “I don’t have any idea of the financial impact. However, with the grants that are in place, we should be okay.”
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the School Committee formally approved its 2014 fiscal budget to be presented to the Town for formal review in the amount of $34,682,052, which is a 3.185-percent increase from a year ago.
The decision was a follow-up from last week’s discussion where Mercurio pointed out that the School Committee had to make some reductions within areas such as professional development, supplies, transportation, etc. – about $245,000 total – to get the increase to that 3-percent level that could be accepted by the Town Council following the upcoming talks the two sides are expected to have.