NARRAGANSETT, RI — A Narragansett City Council hearing on Monday prompted some questions about the proposed $34.6 million education budget, which would increase 4.3% from this year.
Net education spending would increase by $1.45 million, increasing Narragansett’s contribution to schools by 2.15%, or $582,000.
“We want to have great schools. We want families to move to Narragansett because of the schools, and we think they are,” Supt. of schools, said Peter Cummings.
Cummings said the department plans to cut two full-time elementary staff this year and make adjustments to staff at other schools.
The city will also spend $1.5 million on renovations to the high school auditorium this year. A related project will improve the air handling system.
” It’s linked. If you do one, you have to do both,” Cummings said.
The renovation project had been postponed for a few years due to COVID but can now proceed, Cummings said.
Further work would improve parking as part of the Safe Routes to School initiative.
The total capital improvement is about $1.9 million, Cummings said.
Salaries are expected to increase by 2.77% and benefits by about 5.2% for the self-insured school department.
“We’re getting a really good deal with this, but the benefits are expensive,” Cummings said.
The state legislature has opted to fund its school aid this year, Cummings said.
“In the long term, we hope more students will be attracted to Narragansett,” he said. “When you have fewer students, you receive less state aid.”
Narragansett’s share of total education spending is the lowest in South County, at just 50 percent, according to Cummings.
“If you look at South Kingstown, that number is 70%,” he said. “Westerly is 68 per cent.”
As of March 21, Narragansett’s proposed budget for 2022-23 was $67.1 million, an increase of 6%.
For COVID-19 aid, schools have until the end of 2024 to spend any funding.
“We’ve allocated the money to last as long as possible,” Cummings said. “We have budgeted it in such a way as to spread it over this period.”
The council generally expects to pass the first reading of the budget order in mid-May, with a second final passage in early June after public hearings.