EAST PROVIDENCE — At its bi-weekly meeting Thursday, Sept. 20, in Room 306 of City Hall, the East Providence Budget Commission made its first formal presentation of the Fiscal Year 2013 fiscal plan to the public.
The FY13 budget proposal totals $134,031,010, over $750,000 less than the previous year. School-based expenditures, as is always the case, comprised the single-biggest component of the plan, $72,225,790. The proposed FY13 budget includes no increase to the tax rate. But under the 15-year phase-out of the Homestead exemption, homeowners lose another percentage point off their tax break.
Discussion of the FY13 plan was brief. The Commission set up two public hearings on the matter. The first takes place Thursday, Oct. 4, at City Hall at 3 p.m. The second also takes place at City Hall Thursday, Oct. 18, beginning at 5 p.m.
The Commission had more lengthier discussions on other topics.
It agreed to fill a position in the combined Information Technology department, which would help maintain the minimal number of personnel needed to help keep both the city and schools running properly. Interim School Superintendent Dr. John DeGoes passionately asked for the move to be expedited.
“I have people with technology they can’t use because it won’t even go on,” Dr. DeGoes said. “We’re not functioning the way we should be functioning. It’s vital that we fill this position immediately.”
The process of hiring is expected to take some 90 days. In the interim, the Commission approved the outsourcing of personnel through the State Master Purchasing Agreement.
Commission Chairman Diane Brennan updated her counterparts on the process of finding a permanent replacement for Dr. DeGoes. Chairman Brennan has reached out to the Rhode Island Department of Education for assistance and it has agreed to help in the search.
Likely not to be included in the search are members of the local teachers’ union or parents. Besides a RIDE representative, the Budget Community seems set on having a small group determine who eventually takes over the position.
The job is expected to be posted by some time next month with the plan to have a new full-time superintendent in place and ready to take over the reins by the Dr. DeGoes’ 90-day term expires in January 2013.
As part of the overall school discussion, the Commission talked of implementing specified performance standards for administrators, something not currently in place and factors teachers already must meet.
City Tax Assessor Steven Hazard reported to the Commission some 11,000 letters will be sent out to residents of East Providence to verify their existing Homestead exemption. In addition, they will also be asked to verify their residence and vehicle ownership. Mr. Hazard said while the program in similar to the one conducted recently in Providence, he doesn’t expect to reap the windfall as happened in the Capital City. He did, however, say East Providence should benefit from the effort.
Dr. DeGoes told the Commission of East Providence High School’s improved NECAP tests scores in Science. School juniors improved its scores by some 15 percent. Forty-three percent of EPHS students earned “proficient” scores, 11 percent above the state-wide average.
“It’s a credit to the teachers and students and their parents,” Dr. DeGoes said of the improved test results. “Seven percent improvement or more is significant. So it’s really quite an amazing accomplishment.”