Tax impact of Barrington's school budget is 'historically low'

Officials expect 38 percent increase in state aid to schools

By Josh Bickford
Posted 3/1/21

The Barrington School Department budget is expected to grow by more than $2.5 million next year, but local taxpayers will be spared from covering most of the increase.

In fact, Barrington school …

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Tax impact of Barrington's school budget is 'historically low'

Officials expect 38 percent increase in state aid to schools

Posted

The Barrington School Department budget is expected to grow by more than $2.5 million next year, but local taxpayers will be spared from covering most of the increase.

In fact, Barrington school officials are proposing just a 1.1 percent increase to the tax levy. A 37.8 percent increase in money for the Barrington school district per the state’s school funding formula will cover the bulk of the proposed increase.

Members of the Barrington School Committee discussed the budget during Thursday night’s meeting and quickly referenced the “historically low” increase to the tax levy. Barrington Superintendent of Schools Michael Messore said finance director Doug Fiore and his assistant Patrick Guthlein worked hard on the budget, and he was very proud to present the proposal to the school committee, as well as members of the committee on appropriations and the local community.

The 1.1 percent increase is the smallest increase in the last five years, and by a sizable margin.

In 2018 and 2019, the school budget increase resulted in a 3.0 percent jump to the tax levy. That figure grew to 3.3 percent in 2020, and 3.7 percent in 2021. The 2022 proposed school budget results in a 1.1 percent increase (or about $532,000) to the tax levy.

This year, Barrington taxpayers can thanks the state’s school funding formula.

Barrington School Committee member Dr. Megan Douglas said this was how the school funding formula is supposed to work. She said districts that have an increase in student population are supposed to receive more state aid.

Fellow committee member Patrick McCrann agreed, stating that this year offers an example of how the funding formula is intended to work.

The district received about $5.7 million in state aid for 2021, but is expecting nearly $8 million for 2022.

The news was so good that school committee members seemed to question whether state aid was actually real.

Mr. Fiore said he double-checked all the numbers and confirmed the funding figures with state officials. He said some school districts in Rhode Island will be receiving less state aid because their student populations are decreasing.

Mr. Fiore reassured school committee members that this year’s aid was not an aberration, and that they should not expect a drastic reduction in future years. He said that action would result in a chaotic situation for districts that rely more heavily upon state aid.

After a brief discussion, school committee members voted 5-0 to approve the proposed budget. It will next head to the town’s committee on appropriations for further review.

Budget requests

A 4.9 percent or $2,669,957 increase to the current $54.4 million operating budget will allow officials to fulfill a series of new requests.

At the top of the list is $135,000 for additional personnel in the technology department. There is also $40,000 for a Human Resources position, and $55,000 for expansion of the pre-kindergarten program, as officials are expecting an enrollment increase.

The budget also calls for an additional $30,000 for increased investment in training and equipment for special education; $95,565 to pay for contracted bus monitor services; $111,535 for the continued transition to web-based curriculum; and $17,191 to re-stripe the track at Barrington High School.

Officials are expecting that the HR position will result in savings in legal and administrative costs.

Capital budget

Officials are requesting a $388,595 capital budget — the vast majority of that money will be dedicated to technology items.

About $230,000 will be used to pay for new computer devices for students — 625 for students at Barrington High School and Barrington Middle School, and 275 for students at Hampden Meadows School. Another $30,000 will pay for computers in the BHS computer lab; $26,970 will be for the wireless access point replacement project at the schools; and $4,375 will cover new monitors in the BHS computer lab.

The district also plans to spend $70,000 for a new mini school bus.

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