“Students with disabilities and special needs should never be the victims of budget problems in a community,” he said. Yet as school departments face tighter budgets and as costs increase from private special education providers, it is becoming more difficult for schools to ensure that the special education needs of some students can be met.
“As a result of law enacted some years ago, the so-called “3050” that sets a 4 percent cap on municipal tax levy increases, municipal and school budgets can grow only so much,” said Rep. Canario. “In the face of that, it is a nightmare for schools departments to deal with special ed costs from private providers that grow at 5 or 8 or 10 percent each year.”
Rep. Canario, who has been working with members of the Tiverton School Committee who sought out his help to address the issue, said the answer “is not short-changing special needs students or trimming back other areas of a school budget to cover higher special education costs. It is finding a way to keep those outside costs from rising so much, so often.”
His bill, 2013-H 5203, would prohibit private educational service providers, such as the Groden Center, Bradley Hospital and others, from seeking an annual increase in payments from school departments greater than the 4 percent increase in tax levy increases allowed for municipalities by state law.
“There may be instances when the specific kind of services provided by these agencies represents a significant change in the normal kinds of services, and obviously that would entail a higher fee,” he said. “But all else being equal, if communities have to live with a 4 percent increase every year, service agencies should not expect more than a 4 percent increase for their services.”
The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Finance. It is co-sponsored by Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth), Rep. Linda Finn (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown), Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth) and Rep. Frank G. Ferri (D-Dist. 22, Warwick).