Budget talks hinge on school configuration

Budget talks hinge on school configuration

The Westerly Sun


WESTERLY — In its third budget session Wednesday, the school committee considered areas of potential cost savings in transportation if one elementary school were closed.

The committee will formally discuss the issue of closing either the Bradford Elementary School or State Street School on Jan.18 at 6 p.m. in Town Council chambers at Town Hall. At $58,304,599, the initial 2017-18 budget is $1,782,817, or 3.1 percent, higher than the last fiscal year total of $56.5 million.

In comparing potential savings in closing Bradford versus State Street, Director of Transportation Susan Guarino said it would cost less to transport Bradford’s 74 students to other schools than to bus State Street’s 350 students elsewhere in the district.

“Obviously Bradford, because of the size of the school and the number of students that would have to be moved, is less of an issue than closing a school of 350,” she said. “There would be more cost, definitely, to have State Street School closed rather than Bradford just because of the logistics.”

Guarino said the district currently sends two buses to Bradford and six to State Street, not including special education buses.

She added that even if both schools were kept open but school boundaries were redistricted, around the same number of buses would be needed.

Superintendent Roy Seitsinger Jr. said he had specific strategies for closing one school that he would talk about at Wednesday’s meeting.

“I’ll give you a baseline recommendation and I’ll give you my strategy for reducing to a certain point,” he said. “As a recommendation, I don’t believe the four-school model is viable because staffing alone would not be efficient.”

In other business, Director of Pupil Personnel Melissa Denton presented a summary of every paraprofessional in the district by location as requested by the committee.

“All of our special education is based on IEP’s (independent educational plan), based on compliance, and it’s usually based on the level of impact of the child’s disability because we worked really hard to make sure students are only provided support when they really need it because we want to empower our students to be as independent as possible,” she said.

In her budget predictions for next year, she looked at the district’s special education preschool students and those who are getting ready to graduate.

“I tried to be cautious so we’d have enough funds but not a surplus, but students move in and out and we have a responsibility to meet their needs,” she said.

Committee member Gina Fuller said she’d like the district to freeze the special education budget as a line item so that unused funds would roll over to the next fiscal year and create a financial buffer should a special needs student move into the district.

The initial budget documents are available at Westerly.k12.ri.us, but some of the spreadsheets used during the meeting were not available to the public or posted on the district website. Finance Director Deb Brigham said the documents would be posted on Thursday.

chewitt@thewesterlysun.com


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