Superintendent Victor Mercurio presented a $34 million budget for fiscal year 2013 to the School Committee Tuesday night, $1.48 million – roughly 4.5 percent – higher than the 2012 budget.
The increases, he said, came from a variety of sources, including contracted salary and benefits increases (around $1 million) and special education (around $460,000).
The amount sought from the town, however, is at just over 4 percent, thanks to increases in revenue, including a projected in boost in state aid. Typically, the state aid number has been the last one to fall into line, but the state passed an education funding formula last year and according to that, East Greenwich is slated to receive $1.78 million from the state. That's an increase of more than $300,000 from 2012.
"I'm very confident that we will get that $1.7 million," said Director of Administration Maryann Crawford. "It's all based on the funding formula."
Understanding that the town will most likely want a lower increase in school spending, the School Committee asked Mercurio and Crawford to prioritize possible budget cuts in percentage point increments. In other words, what would they cut if the budget were to increase only 3 percent? Then, 2 percent? And finally, 1 percent?
Committeeman Jack Sommer asked several questions about transportation. In particular, he wanted to know if the companies that will be bidding on the bus contract for next year could provide a ridership reservation system so the district had a better idea of how many student actually take the buses, possibly leading to the need for fewer buses.
Committeewoman Mary Ellen Winter asked why the middle and high school schedules couldn't be synched so teachers of subjects like music and foreign language could travel between the schools, possibly eliminating overlap. Such a proposition would need to be approved by the teachers by a 70 percent majority as dictated by the teachers contract.
One member of the public asked about the salary step increases, which will total around $250,000 next year. Committee members said that step increases are a state mandate so they have to be included. But, as Committee Chair Deidre Gifford noted, many EG teachers are at the top step. Those teachers only get a raise if it's included in the contract.
The School Committee must present its budget to the town on or before March 15. No vote was taken at the meeting Tuesday night. The committee meets next on Tuesday, March 6, but Gifford suggested that there might need to be an additional meeting before March 15 to vote on the budget. That's because at the March 6 meeting, members will hear a report on the elementary school reconfiguration plan, which could have budget implications.
School Committee members Bob Durant and Paul Martin were absent.