$11.9 million budget proposed for school department
In hindsight of Governor Lincoln Chafee’s budget proposal Tuesday to increase state aid to schools by $38.2 million, Superintendent Marcia Lukon proposed at the School Committee’s Feb. 2 meeting an $11.9 million budget for fiscal year 2013, assuming $358,264 in state aid.
From last year to the current year, the budget does not reflect a substantial increase. Between fiscal year 2012 to fiscal year 2013, the budget increases by $123,947 – or 1.05 percent. This year’s increase correlates with the 1.51 percent increase over the last four years – or $178,793.
The $11.9 million budget breaks down to $3.3 million for the Lawn Avenue School, $3.9 million for the Melrose Avenue School, and $3.1 million for out-of-district students, including North Kingstown High School students.
The budget assumes a 10 percent increase in health insurance premiums, a 4 percent hike in dental insurance premiums, a 3 percent increase for statewide transportation, anda5percentincreasefor out-of-district tuition, including students attending North Kingstown. These factors make up the major costs of the budget.
Within the budget, Lukon proposes a half reduction in full-time employees. Because students needing services have moved on to high school, Lukon proposed reducing one special education teacher and one-half reduction of a professional development facilitator position. In light of new teacher and student assessments in 2013, Lukon proposed adding one full-time director of curriculum assessment and professional development.
The most variable budget item, tuition costs represent 23.11 percent of the budget, or $2.7 million, a decrease of $25,968 from last year’s budget. Tuition costs include $417,458 for eight outof district special needs students and $77,400 for six charter school students.
The higher cost for the Melrose School versus the Lawn School parallels their student population. At the Melrose School, 290 students (a decrease of 10 students from last year) are expected to attend school in the 2012-13 school year. The Lawn School expects 214 students to attend next year, an increase of 15 more students from last year’s 199 student enrollment.
A total of 183 Jamestown students will attend North Kingstown High School, an enrollment figure that has decreased over the past four years. Last year, 190 students attended the high school.
From fiscal year 2012 to fiscal year 2013, the budget for the special education department has increased by 4.76 percent, or $134,432. The budget this year is $2.9 million, up from last year’s $2.8 million.
In developing the budget, Lukon kept in mind several strategic school goals, including expanding the eighth-grade language program to offer standards-based world language instruction for all students, improving teaching, learning and efficiency through the use of technology, and providing differentiated instruction for students to reach higher levels of achievement.
The School Committee will now review the budget proposal before its next meeting, and hopes to adopt the proposal on Thursday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m. at the Melrose Avenue School. The Town Council will then vet the proposal and adopt it along with the municipal budget.
In other news, the kindergarten will now receive free Mandarin instruction through the Confucius Center at the University of Rhode Island, as a result from discussions between the center and Melrose Avenue School Principal Carole Melucci.
Also, Amy Gallagher, a secretary for the Taxpayers Association of Jamestown, suggested that the Melrose preschool tuition be raised to cover the costs of the students. Ken Duva, the Jamestown’s director of student services, said that he had researched the cost of surrounding preschool programs and Jamestown’s tuition was already the most costly.
Finally, the School Committee unanimously voted to approve the superintendent’s recommendation for the non-renewal or reduction of 16 teaching contracts for the 2012-13 school year.