An initial 2019-20 budget plan for Cranston Public Schools unveiled this week seeks an increase of approximately 2.6 percent in the city’s appropriation to the district.
The proposal from Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse totals $163,871,886, relying on a state aid projection of $64,604,138 and a local contribution of $96,352,748, or approximately $2,455,926 more than the current year’s figure.
“We must continue to move forward in an impactful and focused way,” Nota-Masse wrote in her budget message to School Committee members, dated Jan. 14. “We must invest dollars in programs that expand opportunities for all students. We must recognize that schools need to prepare our students with relevant, innovative skills for their lives and careers. While our history is important, our future is critical.”
Nota-Masse presented the budget during a work session of the School Committee on Monday. Another work session is scheduled for Jan. 22, while a third will be held if necessary on Jan. 28. Budget adoption meetings are scheduled for Feb. 4 and Feb. 7.
A full meeting schedule, as well as the superintendent’s complete budget proposal, can be found on the district’s website, cpsed.net.
Nota-Masse’s message states that the local increase being sought is “well below” the 4-percent cap allowed under state law. It also notes that the district requested a local appropriation increase of $1,344,815 for the 2018-19 year and received $714,170.
As a whole, the budget proposal represents a 3.99 percent increase over the current year’s spending plan. Aside from the requested increase in the local contribution, projected revenue increases include an additional $3,566,469 in state aid and approximately $270,000 in vocational school tuition.
“Each year we are able to provide various academic, athletic and artistic opportunities for our students,” the message reads. “For the better part of this decade, we have created budgets that are fiscally sound; that is our responsibility. But, it is also our responsibility to provide valuable and innovative opportunities for our children. We must have rigorous curricula aligned to the Common Core, high quality instruction, work-class facilities and the resources to ensure all of this is provided to our students.”
In terms of fiscal challenges, Nota-Masse indicates the city’s schools pay more than $2,759,810 in tuition for students attending charter schools or “pathway” programs outside of the district. She also writes that pension and retirement changes in recent years have significantly reduced the number of teacher retirements annually.
“Previously, we would budget for at least 10 retirements, or approximately 1 percent of our certified staff. As of this writing, we have no impending retirements scheduled for 2019-20,” her message reads. “This significantly affects the budget in staffing, healthcare and pension costs. While efforts have been made to implement efficiencies in staffing, the reality is our faculty is primarily comprised of veteran teachers, who are at the top step of the salary scale and we have very few members at the lower end of the salary scale. As in our previous, and all school department budgets, salaries comprise the majority of our budget.”