The School Committee got a peek at Superintendent Peter Horoschak’s recommended $162.2 million fiscal year 2013 school department budget during an overview presentation by Business Affairs Director Anthony Ferrucci Tuesday.
Ferrucci said the budget takes into account Governor Lincoln Chafee’s recommended budget, which includes $1.5 million in restored funding of the Federal Jobs Grant, which supplanted state aid in FY 2012. Ferrucci said the district is also scheduled to receive $500,000 in additional state aid as part of a full funding formula implementation, which takes into account an accelerated payment of $253,273 intended to go to the district in 2014 to be applied to the FY 2013 budget.
Ferrucci said thanks to a significant budget surplus realized three years ago, the district has had the luxury of relying on approximately $2 million annually to help plug the gap but that will no longer be the case, as only a slight surplus is projected to carry forward, thereby considerably reducing available revenue.
“Given the number of initiatives that will be identified throughout the budget process, and the noted loss of prior year surpluses, we are in need of an increase from the community of $5,961,498,” Ferrucci said. “This amount represents an approximate 5 percent increase over the FY 2012 allocation.”
Although the school department presented a budget to the city requesting $124.6 million in city allocation for FY 2012, it was only approved for $118.6 million. The department is again requesting a $124.6 million city allocation for FY 2013.
Ferrucci said the district was able to realize approximately $1.3 million in savings in the transportation budget by outsourcing busing responsibilities to First Student, although the district will continue to supply bus monitors at a cost of $80,000.
With regard to expenses, the proposed budget calls for $1 million in new textbooks, more than $860,000 in building initiatives, and $841,850 in new technology initiatives.
However, the largest ticket item is approximately $3.5 million in needed fire code upgrades and improvements over the next three years, which the district plans to address by requesting that the city return all unspent RIHBEC bond funds, approved by voters in 2006 and earmarked for fire code work, in order to reduce the amount owed as well as to remove principal and interest payments, thereby increasing the department’s local budget by $2.7 million. This move would also add $3.3 million to the FY 2013 local operating budget to be applied in the summers of July 2013 (FY 14) and July 2014 (FY 15). Ferrucci said the fire code issue accounts for 67 percent of the total increase in expenses for FY 2013.
Among initiatives not included in the proposed budget are eight additional reading teachers, K-6 Health program textbooks, district-wide electrical upgrades needed to support current day demands and new roofs at Vets High School and the maintenance building.
When crafting the budget, Ferrucci said student need was the primary focus.
“We must provide a safe, healthy and productive learning environment for students,” he said.
Horoschack added, “This is not an over-the-top request that allows us to meet all of the school department’s needs.”
Ferrucci said no pay increases have been factored into the budget, apart from those contained in collective bargaining agreements.
Following the end of the presentation, School Committee member Patrick Maloney said there are several areas he plans to look at to reduce costs during upcoming budget meetings. Department directors were scheduled to begin presenting their budgets last night and will continue presentations on April 16 and April 24 at the school administration building, 34 Warwick Lake Ave., Warwick.