School Committee: 2.96% Tax Rate Increase Needed to Close Budget Gaps
During a budget workshop Monday, the School Committee said it is $681,296 short despite budget cutbacks.
The Middletown School Committee on Monday presented a $37,496,528 budget to the Middletown Town Council. Under the current tax rate, revenues fell $681,296 short, the school committee reported, which translates to a 2.96 percent tax increase to bring it up to a level budget.
Unfortunately, this budget gap includes a reduction of services that includes 12 positions and a reduction in supplies and services.
According to the committee, 65 percent of the district’s revenue comes from property taxes, and the other funding sources include state aid (25 percent), federal aid (8.5 percent), local revenue (.6 percent), private donations (.1 percent) and the fund balance (.8 percent).
The primary drivers of the gap are a loss of state aid, a requirement to pay tuition to the MET school, new requirements set up by the Rhode Island Department of Education and a response to intervention (RTI) programs.
Superintendent Rosemarie K. Kraeger said that while the school district has numbers to be proud of, such as Middletown High School's number one rank in writing scores, there is room for improvement.
“Are the percentages great? No," she said. "We all need to work harder."
Middletown resident Paul Mankofsky said the council needs to take greater responsibility in holding the school committee accountable and not impacting the tax rate.
“They need to ask them, ‘What can we get for $35 million?’,” Manofsky said after the workshop. He said with the decline of services and the increased burden on taxpayers, it is a risk to everyone’s overall well-being.
Kraeger said that it has come to managing expenses as tight as going through each closet and evaluating the necessity of each paper clip. She said that although the district is monitoring the amount of paper that is used, the rumors that the district does not have paper are false.
“It’s just part of tightening our belts,” said the superintendent.
Councilor Chris Semonelli said while he doesn’t have the answer, it is a community problem.
“The school committee didn’t create this problem,” he said.
Councilor Richard Cambra went as far as suggesting the town push back on the state.
“I think we need to sue the state,” he said.
Councilor Antoine Viveiros agreed and said he may place a request to have the town solicitor look into legal avenues for next week’s town council docket.