JFC unanimously approves ‘historic’ school budget

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Bristol Warren School Committee chairman Paul Silva has been involved in presenting the school budget for years and has seen it all — or most of it. Last Tuesday night, though, he couldn't help but note that this year's budget marks a real, true milestone:

“The budget being presented tonight is actually historic,” he said. “This is the first time the budget presented is less than the one the previous year.”

Despite the fact that all three of its Warren members remained quiet during the entire meeting and even during voting, the nine-member Joint Finance Committee passed a $53 milion budget last week, which represents a $300,000 spending cut from last years. In other years, the hall would have been filled to near capacity with those supporting the towns and those supporting the school district. But with barely 50 people in attendance, and only one member of the public who spoke when the meeting was opened to public comment, this year’s budget talks were all in favor of the school district’s request – and successes.

Susan Rancort, treasurer of the school committee, used a sports analogy to illustrate the importance of teamwork, individual accomplishment and a strong front office to have a winning season. Crediting the work of teachers, staff and administration, she encouraged the members of the JFC to support the team and “wear the gear and buy the tickets.”

Prior to presenting the school district budget, superintendent of schools Melinda Thies presented a ‘state of the school district address’ that highlighted all the accomplishments.

“I think we have much to celebrate,” Ms. Thies said.

Using a video presentation that was produced by two Mt. Hope students, the JFC and others in attendance saw examples of academic gains made within the district since 2005, educator excellence, instructional innovation, academic and community partnerships and enrichment opportunities that all contributed to student success.

“We knew we had an incredible challenge due to the loss of state funding,” Ms. Thies said.

As a result of the state’s funding formula, Bristol Warren is “the greatest loser” in the state, facing an annual reduction of state funds of over $700,000 each year from 2011 through 2020.

Enrollments, however, have remained stable.

“We stayed the course over some difficult times,” Ms. Thies said. “My continuous, recurring theme is that we are worth the investment in our community.”

Representing Bristol on the JFC, Halsey Herreshoff commended Ms. Thies and the school district for their work.

“We’re entering a new chapter of better business management of the schools. I think we should simply reward good performance. You’ve done a great job,” Mr. Herreshoff said in recommending that the JFC approve the budget as presented.

Noting the school district’s efforts to cut or realign staff for efficiencies, Mr. Herreshoff said, “I think the towns can take a lesson from that approach.”

Mr. Herreshoff’s motion to approve the budget as presented received a second from Bristol’s Timothy Sweeney. Representatives from the town of Warren, Christopher Stanley, Scott Lial and Cathy Tattrie, remained silent throughout the meeting. After the vote was taken and no nays were voiced, JFC chairman Nathan Calouro reaffirmed the vote by asking if the vote was unanimous. No one disagreed and the motion to approve the total budget requested of $53,685,074 was passed.

Budget at a glance

Bristol     $22,039,592 -   $817,511 increase

Warren   $11,681,278  -   $$83,641 decrease

State aid  $17,028,893 - $741,050 decrease

Other       $    2,935,311 - $107,165 decrease

FY 2014

request     $53,685,074 - $300,015 decrease

 

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