RICHMOND — Members of the Town Council heard a report at their Tuesday meeting on a finance directors' meeting that took place on Feb. 1 to try to find a way to resolve the inequities in the contributions of the three Chariho towns to the school budget.
The towns’ shares are based on enrollment, and Hopkinton’s contribution to the $52.5 million fiscal year 2020 spending plan will rise by 3.2 percent, the result of an enrollment increase of 21 students. Richmond will pay 1.75 percent more and Charlestown, with fewer children in the district, will pay 6.1 percent less.
Richmond Finance Director Kelli Russ told the council that she had met with Hopkinton Finance Director Brian Rosso, Charlestown Treasurer Patricia Anderson, Chariho Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci, and Susan Rogers, Chariho director of administration and finance. The two-hour meeting took place at the Chariho campus.
Russ noted that she and Rosso had asked Anderson whether Charlestown might consider a more equitable way to distribute the towns' Chariho expenses.
“The problem is, you never get all your communities in a negative situation at once, so always, you’ll have a community that’s not really for change, because that’s the year they benefit,” she said.
“Luckily we were able to convince her somehow to go back to Charlestown, and they are going to actually start researching … They’re going to look at the four regionals that are here," she said, referring to Rhode Island's four regional school districts. "Unfortunately, I think they’re all set up very similar. They’re also going to look nationally, in areas outside of Rhode Island.”
Russ is also exploring ways to predict Chariho enrollment by town, which would make budget preparation easier.
“Nobody has ever estimated here what your future is going to look like,” she said. “So, what I did was, I put in a public request with the State of Rhode Island Department of Public Health. They maintain all our records for births, and I asked them for a public release of records for Richmond, Charlestown and Hopkinton for the number of live births from 2013, 2014 and 2015. Because, with some slight change and with deviation of movements, you can assume that whoever was born in 2013 or 2014 will be entering kindergarten at some point five years later."
Armed with those figures, Russ said the town could estimate its student enrollment for next couple of years.
The council was given a preview of work that will begin next June at Richmond Elementary School to redesign the school's front entrance. The new design will improve the safety of the parent drop-off area in front of the school, which currently shares space with school bus drop-offs.
Pointing out the changes on a drawing, Ricci explained that the objective was to separate the parent and school bus drop-off areas.
“The whole purpose of this, we’ve been told time after time that the buses should be separate from parent drop-off and that kids should not be getting out of cars while buses are moving. Right now at Richmond, there’s no separation.”
The project which will cost $607,000, is already in the current budget and state housing aid will reimburse the district for $370,270 of that amount.