2017-07-27 / Front Page

School Committee Approves $39 Million Budget

By Brooke Constance White

The Newport School Committee unanimously approved a $39.38 million budget for fiscal year 2017- 18 during a special meeting on Monday, July 24. The new budget represents a 2-percent, or $1 million, increase over last year’s budget.

With the new budget, nearly all of the nine school department staff who received layoff notices in the late spring will retain their positions. Superintendent Colleen Jermain said there are two positions that the district will not be recalling due to changes in department structure.

“This new, balanced budget will bring our staffing back to where we were,” she said.

School Committee Chairman David Hanos thanked the administration and finance subcommittee for the hard work that went into the effort. “This was a difficult budget to come up with and we had to go back to the drawing board many times,” he said. “But we did it and we now have a balanced budget.”

Committee member Rebecca Bolan was not present for the meeting, and members Kathleen Silvia and David Carlin III arrived several minutes late. Although Carlin was not present to vote on the budget, he voted against recalling the seven teachers, even though he also voted against laying off the teachers in May.

With little discussion, the budget was approved within the first 10 minutes of the meeting, mainly because the committee had met on July 20 for a workshop on the budget. During that workshop, Jermain said that the proposed budget included funding based on enrollment and the needs in the district’s strategic plan. The budget includes funding for two teachers and a behavior interventionist at Pell Elementary School; a full-time dean clerical; a full-time guidance clerical; an in-school suspension support person; a part-time psychologist for Thompson Middle School; and a part-time technical assistant in culinary and a technology director at Rogers High School.

Jermain said that there are still issues regarding staffing and scheduling that need to be discussed. For example, another math teacher is needed at Rogers. For now, the district’s contingency fund will finance the position, but Jermain said there might be a way to rearrange schedules or use some of their fund balance to pay for the additional math position. Those options will be considered after taking a look at repositioning the current math department and a financial audit is completed in the fall.

Following the meeting, which began at 5 p.m., Carlin expressed frustration that it was held when most of the public would be at work and unable to attend. He also said he believes there were some line item figures that were inflated in the budget the committee presented to the city council. The finance subcommittee meetings, where the budget was worked on over the course of more than 15 meetings, were open to all committee members and the public.

“I think the wool has been pulled over the taxpayers’ eyes,” Carlin said. “Everyone on the school committee should be voted out, including myself, because you can’t pick and choose. The taxpayers deserve better.”

In other matters, the committee voted to approve technology hardware purchases for laptops for teachers and students. The $600,000 investment is being funded through the city as a one-time purchase and is not included in the new budget. Jermain said there will be professional development prior to the department rolling out the computer. She said that several members of the administration researched what other school districts have done and did a cost comparison to insure they are getting the best equipment for their money.

Return to top