The met with the Newport City Council and City Manager on Tuesday night to discuss the tentative fiscal 2013 school department budget. Based on current projections, School Committee Chairman Patrick Kelley said he would not be requesting level funding from the council.
Due to the loss of federal funding, growing student enrollment numbers and an unsettled contract between the Teachers' Association of Newport (TAN), along with other contributing factors, the School Committee will request a 2.83 percent increase in funding from the city of $639,515.
The is $13,205 more than last year.
The extra funding would be necessary to “continue to offer and provide high quality educational programs,” Kelley said.
The tentative contract with TAN would have yielded approximately $375,000 in expense savings, he added.
“While this has not yet been factored into this budget, our intention is to continue to take the necessary and appropriate actions to gain concessions from the teacher's union so as to avoid significant impairment of our city's educational programming,” Kelley wrote in a letter to the mayor and City Council, dated May 24.
“One way or another we need to get closure with the teacher contract situation," he said.
A contract resolution would offset the request for city funding to approximately $264,000.
The school department also faces $91,000 in state aid reduction and approximately $1 million in its available balance to transfer to operations. The reduced funding has been offset by a one-time ARRA Education Jobs Funds allotment of $502,800.
A reduction of $400,000 in Title I and II funds are also expected in fiscal 2013.
The budget proposal shows a $140,000 increase in capital allocation for improvements to , including a new fire system upgrade and roof repairs.
Kelley said if the council decided to level fund the school department's budget, he and the School Committee would have to work with Superintendent John Ambrogi to see which educational programs would have to be dismantled.
“We don't want to have to do that,” Ambrogi said.
Several city councilors recommended to further analyze the between the city and school departments to help defray costs before cuts to educational programs were made.
Councilor Henry Winthrop made the point that if Newport failed to consolidate services within the city, there would be no hope to consolidate services with other towns.
“If the council decides to level fund the budget, we would like to see you try to consolidate rather than eliminate services,” he said.
Committee member Robert Leary said the committee did not need $639,515, but should rather “mak[e] better decisions with the money” they have, as well as revise certain programs to increase savings.
Cost savings will also be found once the Pell Elementary School is running, committee member Charles Shoemaker added. The consolidated school will result in the elimination of some positions, which will save money in future budget proposals, he said.
“Right now we just need a little money to bridge over to get into that time when Pell comes,” he said. “I plead with [the council] not to make up [its] mind about flat funding before you see more numbers.”
Councilor Justin McLaughlin pointed out that there are still four weeks left before the City Council votes on the final budget.
“That's a lot of time to work out your uncertainties and most particularly you will be able to meet with union and alk about impact on some of their perspectives of contract,” he said.
“We're not saying cut the programs, we want the opposite.”