RICHMOND — Members of the Chariho School Board have warned the public ahead of the second school budget referendum of the year that if they cannot receive support for a 0.94 per cent raise, it will lead to staff cuts over the coming year.
In Tuesday night’s decision to accept a tier-funded budget after the failed second referendum last week, those cuts were made in the form of world language teachers at the district’s elementary level – positions of concern some committee members will never be able to restore.
With $525,750 in cuts needed to return the district to a no-increase budget, the district initially sought to cut vacancies rather than lay off staff, but found itself with limited options before members took action. ultimately vote to eliminate the two full-time world languages. positions by a vote of 8 to 3.
“None of these cuts are easy and all of these decisions are difficult because they will impact our operations and our budget, but it does lead us to level funding as voters have asked,” the superintendent of schools said. Gina Picard.
The enacted budget will include a liability of $54.71 million for taxpayers in Charlestown, Richmond and Hopkinton, the same as the 2021-22 school year, and will not include any new taxes. The overall budget will be set at $68.39 million for the coming year for all operating expenses, capital expenditures, special income, business and debt service obligations, but also includes 11 $.61 million in district revenue to offset taxpayer debts.
Cuts made on Tuesday night included the committee voting to accept a variety of Picard’s recommendations, including reducing requests for teaching materials, including novels; eliminate requests for classroom furniture; adjust district tuition; and not filling several currently vacant positions.
Among the eliminated vacancies was an open high school science position vacated by a teacher who took a leave of absence, a position that administrators said would not affect program offerings; a part-time middle and high school librarian position left vacant when a teacher left in January; and an open finance clerk position which will now be combined with an existing registration clerk position.
Picard had also suggested cutting two teachers, a third-grade teacher at Richmond Elementary School and a fourth-grade teacher at Charlestown Elementary School. It was a reduction that committee members expressed concern about due to the impact of increased class sizes, with fourth-grade classes in Charlestown projected at 23 students in the coming year. .
“I’m afraid that over the next few years now, all the work we’ve done will start to roll back,” said school board member Donna Chambers.
The concern led member Craig Louzon to present the alternative of removing the two full-time elementary World Languages teachers instead. While not an ideal solution, Louzon said it would keep class sizes manageable and reduce positions that would have the least impact on student learning.
The district’s current offerings only allow students to have about 30 minutes of world language learning at the elementary school level, and Louzon said that’s something the district could potentially consider rehiring. in the future. However, other members disagreed and said deleting the posts was tantamount to deleting the program permanently.
“If we remove the global language positions, then that’s it. There’s no more,” said school board member Ryan Callahan. “Recovering this will be incredibly difficult. This has long been a district-wide goal and I am not in favor of eliminating it.
Picard said that, as Callahan commented, removing the positions would then require the district to first receive public approval for funding for their reinstatement, and then would have to seek candidates to fill the positions. She said with the recent layoffs, this would likely significantly reduce the quality and number of applicants due to job instability issues.
Callahan, endawnis Spears and Gary Liguori each supported the tier-funded budget but opposed language arts cuts, citing that reason. Callahan had offered a counter-option to the measure, seeking to reduce the cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, which would ultimately reduce any potential salary increases for district staff and limit negotiations.
“As far as year-end raises go, that would significantly reduce the amount we could offer,” said Ned Draper, director of administration and finance for the Chariho Regional School District. “We would need to make peace with a very small amount available to give for increases in the cost of living.”
Several parents expressed frustration with the cuts, indicating that they supported the budget and feared that the community would factor inflation into the request for uniform funding.
Members responded by expressing their own frustrations, telling parents that the cuts were not something the committee preferred to do.
“Nobody here wants that, we don’t want to do any of that,” Chambers said. “We don’t want to cut staff and we don’t want to have a negative impact on morale. But we have a rudimentary budget and something has to give. That’s it.”