WOOD RIVER JUNCTION — The annual public hearing on the proposed Chariho schools budget, which calls for a 2.1 percent spending increase, was over in just 10 minutes Tuesday at the middle school.
About 80 people sat in small groups scattered in the auditorium and only four of them offered brief questions or comments.
“I hope that the fact that there weren’t many questions means that people have a good understanding of the budget and that the budget passes,” said Catherine Giusti, a School Committee member from Hopkinton.
Superintendent Barry Ricci echoed Giusti’s sentiment. “I hope that’s an indication that people trust in our budget and that people see it as a credible document,” he said.
The budget hearing must have at least 25 taxpayers from each of the three towns to satisfy the quorum requirement of the Chariho Act. With Hopkinton one person short, the session was delayed by half an hour. Retired Hope Valley-Wyoming Fire Chief Fred Stanley, whose wife, Sylvia, is president of the School Committee President, Sylvia Stanley, arrived to complete Hopkinton’a contingent.
The proposed 2018-19 Chariho operating budget with debt service would be $57.7 million. The current operating budget with debt service is $56.5 million.
Voters in the Chariho towns will have the final say on the spending plan at the budget referendum on April 10.
If approved, contributions from the three towns would increase by nearly 2 percent. Richmond’s share would be $19.6 million, a 1.5 percent increase. Hopkinton would pay $18.8 million, a 2.9 percent increase, and Charlestown would pay $14.3 million, a 1.3 percent increase.
Charlestown School Committee members Craig Louzon and Ronald Areglado said they believed the committee had done everything it could to present a responsible, reasonable budget, and that the taxpayers would be receptive.
“The School Committee has worked hard to address a number of concerns, particularly from two towns, Richmond and Hopkinton, and I think that we’ve done the best that we can do under the circumstances without imperiling the quality of education,” Areglado said.
At its final budget workshop in January, the School Committee asked Ricci to cut an additional $200,000 from his proposal. He submitted a list of suggested reductions, and the committee accepted them all, with the exception of a $2,800 cut in the district’s allocation for substance abuse prevention counseling.
One addition to the budget is $6,000 for more protective football helmets. Parents now have the option of buying those helmets, but Ricci said he felt that all players should have them.