Schools ask town for $1.1 million in local aid for 2020 budget

Schools ask town for $1.1 million in local aid for 2020 budget

NORTH PROVIDENCE – The School Department is requesting roughly $1.1 million in local aid from the town for its 2020 budget, hoping to offset potential cutbacks in state education funding.

The town has appropriated $32.5 million to education for three budget cycles; however, the School Department is seeking a 3.5 percent increase in local aid this year. The total projected school budget of $58.4 million marks a $337,242 increase over last year, or .58 percent.

Finance Director Ronald Gonsalves Jr. clarified that there is not an actual projected loss in state aid; however, the increase was expected to be significantly less than the roughly $1.5 million increases the town has been receiving from the state every year since 2014.

State aid to education was up more than $1.7 million in 2016 and 2017, up $1.8 million in 2018, and $1.4 million in 2019 – but was expected to increase only $202,331 in 2020.

Supt. Joseph Goho called the reduction in state aid from roughly $1.5 million to $200,000 unexpected. “A trend has emerged in many communities showing that the state funding formula has become unpredictable from year to year,” he said. “These fluctuations make long-term planning difficult and place an undue burden on cities and towns. The local budget request seeks to fill that gap, as most of the costs associated with the requested increase are fixed contractual obligations or out-of-district costs not within our control.”

Mayor Charles Lombardi told The North Providence Breeze that he was hoping to see a level-funded budget. “Their responsibility is not to raise the money. We fund them, they spent it,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to derive additional revenue and save money on the (municipal) side of the budget. We’re in a time when you have to do more with less.”

Gonsalves said the school district was requesting the amount in local aid that they need, not asking for supplemental funding. In the projected budget, the benefit line increased 7.9 percent, and technology services increased $870,929, or 38 percent.

The district expects to save roughly $105,000 from no longer leasing two “swing” spaces to educate Stephen Olney and McGuire Elementary students during construction. He expected that would also save money on transportation, as students are currently being bused out-of-district.

Gonsalves said the projected state aid for next year would likely change based on a number of factors, including updated enrollment data, income eligibility and free-and-reduced lunch program participants. “These are just projections and this is a live document. As information comes to me I would like to update it,” he said.

School Committee member Anthony Marciano said the budget presentation by Gonsalves during the March 6 meeting was the “best, most simplified budget presentation we’ve had in many years.”

Goho echoed his remarks, thanking him for his work. “He inherited a lot of difficult situations, deadlines, a lack of information and support, and has still kept us on-target and on-budget.”

School Committee Chairman Frank Pallotta said he expects to present the budget to the community at a public hearing sometime in April.