2017-03-16 / Around Town

School Committee Prepares Final Budget

By James Merolla

The Middletown School Committee held a budget workshop last week to review priorities for the upcoming fiscal year as the town’s school system faces challenges that include lower enrollment and significantly reduced state aid.

Following the meeting, Middletown Superintendent Rosemarie Kraeger told Newport This Week that there are three main issues being discussed.

“We need to meet the contractual obligations that the School Committee and Town Council agreed to [in the teachers’ and teacher assistants’ contracts],” she said. “We need to maintain the level of service we provide for our students with regard to course offerings. And, if possible [we need to] add programs and/or positions that support the social and emotional needs of our students regarding guidance and the student assistant program.”

The next budget workshop will be Tuesday, March 21 at 5:30 p.m. with the budget adoption scheduled for Thursday, March 23. The school budget must be submitted to the town administrator 100 days prior to the end of the fiscal year. “We will transmit the budget on March 24,” Kraeger said.

Budget workshops with the Town Council are scheduled for Monday, April 10, at 6 p.m., and Friday, April 28, at 2 p.m., both at Middletown Town Hall.

Despite two years of rancor and even a lawsuit between the Town Council and the School Committee, Kraeger said that communication between both sides “has been open and positive thus far.”

“The Town Council recognized that the significant loss of state aid has impacted our revenue,” she said. “The council ratified the contracts and understands their obligations to meet the costs. The town administrator and finance director have been meeting with the school department frequently to discuss the challenges.

“Our taxpayers need to recognize that the loss of state aid has been difficult for the school department. We are in the seventh year of the funding formula, with a cumulative loss of revenue of $1.3 million. An excellent school system is the economic driver of any community. We want to continue to provide our families with a quality educational school system.”

Earlier this month, council members expressed concern over an enrollment drop of approximately 90 students. Kraeger said that the dip was mostly connected to a change in the U.S. Naval presence. She pointed out that students with military connections has dropped from 663 to 574 over the past three years.

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