Letter: Save Barrington schools from budget cuts

Posted

To the editor:

As a resident of Barrington I am concerned and puzzled by the action of our Committee on Appropriations (COA). The voters in our town approved the new middle school on Nov. 8, 2016 by a vote of 6,003 approve or 64 percent and 3,404 disapprove or 36 percent. Then at our special town financial meeting on March 16, 2017 the vote approving the override was 590 in favor or 63 percent and 349 against or 37 percent. This is basically a 2/1 ratio of strong support to invest in our schools. 

I know that when I cast both my votes, I was not asking COA to cut the annual school budget as a result. Yet this is what Mr. (Chad) Mollica and the COA are doing. 

At the last COA meeting Mr. Mollica told Kate Brody, chair of the school committee, that she has structural issues with her budget, and that she needs to make significant cuts. 

Please keep in mind that all of the increases to the school budget are to fund mandates by the state which we have to do as well as to honor the contract with our teachers. I think we can all agree that our teachers work hard to educate our children. In short, it is a level funded budget with no fluff despite its increased price tag. 

Yet Mr. Mollica and the rest of COA are in effect demanding to cut teachers, sports, classes, learning coaches, transportation, and after school extra-curriculars. 

Mr. Mollica and the COA seem to be taking the side of the minority vote over that of the town-wide majority. This is undemocratic. He seems to be listening more to Tom Rimoshytus, who has repeatedly spoken out against the bond for the middle school which passed overwhelmingly. He also spoke out against school start times which was passed by the school committee last year. 

Mr. Rimoshytus, however, did support the $1.5 million field turf proposal which was put forward by Dr. Alex Robertson in the 2015 FTM. This field would have put our kids at risk for 44 percent more injury rate than what we have now, it would also expose our kids to 6-8 known cancer causing chemicals. This proposal also did not go through the strategic plan process as did both all-day kindergarten and start time change. 

The field turf vote failed by a large margin. That was a good thing. So when you hear the RIACT people claiming they are looking out for taxpayers keep this fact in mind. Also keep in mind that this $1.5 million is about 5 times more than what school start time change would cost.

If you voted to support the building of the new middle school, please email the COA and the school committee to let them know you support our schools. The next COA meeting is April 11 at 7pm at the BMS library. 

Paul J O’Brien Jr, DC

Barrington

Comments

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RIbull

So the complaint is about managing within a budget?

Many teachers work hard. So do most people in other professions. But this ever increasing expenses is not sustainable. Allow teachers to freely contract, individually. Allow schools to freely contract. Guaranteed employment and retirement after 20 years are (expensive) relics of the past.

Expenses grow and change. Allow the school administration to decide how to operate within a budget and hold them accountable.

Freedom and accountability. What a thought.

Wednesday, April 12 | Report this
MJM

I agree that an ever increasing budget due to state mandates and teacher contracts is not sustainable, but that is where we are this year and next year. I am concerned that we have a School Committee that is putting forward a budget, with the largest tax increase to residents in recent years due to mandates and teacher salaries and benefits and yet that budget is cutting services to students. I am pro teacher, they deserve to be paid well, but I also feel very strongly that our school budget should be student centric and we should not be submitting a school budget that will have taxpayers see a 2.75% increase that diminishes benefits students, forget adding in any new initiatives.

It has been implied that the reduction in the school budget will not take away services to students, and this is not correct. Just last year, a bus was added to the district in an attempt to get ride times down below 30 minutes in our small town. This year the SC is stating this bus isn't necessary, though 20% of students continue to ride the bus for over 30 minutes. So did taxpayers pay for a bus this year that wasn't necessary, or are we now determining that the health and wellness initiative is no longer important because we are worried about saving taxpayers $1 a month in not having the extra bus? Yes, $1.

The proposed budget also calls for a decrease in the school supply budget. This is a line item that has never been properly funded to begin with and now it is being reduced. So, either students will have less supplies, or a larger burden will be on parents and teachers to buy these supplies. We all receive those long classroom supply lists before each academic year, I am happy to make these purchases, but when they run out, the teachers are left footing the bill. Next year the teachers will need to spend more of their own money or supplies, or our students will go without.

Having the COA demand these cuts from our schools is not acceptable, and goes against the wishes of the majority of residents. Even those without students in the schools know that it is because of our great schools that property values continue to rise. We pay significantly less property taxes then East Greenwich and many other communities in Rhode Island. Our schools are the backbone of this community and need a healthy budget and new initiatives to remain strong.

Once we start taking away services to students it is a slippery slope. Next year what will be looked at to be cut, as the state mandates and contract increases will remain? Ice Hockey due to the expensive rink fees for such a small group of students? Maybe the no cuts swim team will be told to cut students to reduce the number of lanes being rented? Maybe they will decide music isn't all that important? On paper, these cuts seem like a good thing for taxpayers. In reality, they will have a negative impact on our students, our schools, and potentially our property values.

The next strategic plan for the district must focus on long term solutions, but in the meantime, we need to push back against a COA only concerned with numbers and insist they agree to a level service budget this year. We need to push the School Committee to hold to a level service budget and remind them that their primary focus needs to be the wellbeing of students.

Wednesday, April 12 | Report this
MJM

This year's Rhode Island tax rates for anyone interested:

http://www.municipalfinance.ri.gov/documents/data/taxrates/2016-Tax-Rates-12-31-15-FINAL.pdf

Wednesday, April 12 | Report this

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