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Message from Superintendent Erinakes
Laurie Ratigan
Monday, June 29, 2020

Please see this important message from Superintendent Erinakes. Thank you. :)

Good Afternoon,

This is to serve as a reminder that the All-Day Referendum for the FY21 school department budget is scheduled for tomorrow. It is incredibly important that everyone get out to vote - and that you help spread the word that all votes matter.

It is not permissible for me to tell people how to vote, however, I believe in the democratic process and will always encourage people's voices to be heard. This is one opportunity for you to do just that. 

I am aware that all residents in both West Greenwich and in Exeter received a mailing today with information on tomorrow's vote. The purpose of this communication is simply to provide additional factual/clarifying information from the school department so that all residents can make an informed voting decision. 

Facts:

  • Federal (COVID stimulus) funding to the schools has absolutely nothing to do with the school's operating budget. Whether our proposed budget is approved or denied, COVID-related funds are assigned based on the State Title I formula. There is one pot of stimulus money that is divided among the districts based on the overall proportion of families who receive free or reduced-price lunch meals. Regardless of the results from tomorrow's ADR, our school district is expected to receive roughly $170,000 in stimulus funds. These funds will be earmarked for increased supervisory/custodial staff to address the required safety protocols for return.  
  •  It is an absolute fact that State Aid has consistently been reduced for our school district. Every year that our State Aid has been reduced, it requires an increased contribution by taxpayers just for us to get to the same budget from the previous year. The reduction for next school year, according to the State funding formula, is over $800,000. That represents the bulk of the tax increase, which will be required even if we are level funded (through a "no" vote).
  • Our actual operations increase is $474,094, or 1.42% - among the lowest of our surrounding communities.
  • Our actual request to the taxpayers of our member towns is $980,976 over last year's contribution. That is the total needed to cover the $812,116 reduction in formula aid and the $474,094 increase in operations. How is this possible? Because the school department has added $305,234 in revenues to offset the operations increase, including over $90,000 in career and technical tuitions to EWG, over $100,000 in added high cost special education reimbursement based on more sophisticated service tracking procedures, and $100,000 assigned by the school committee to the FY21 budget from fund balance). In other words, our increased revenues account for almost all of the increases to operations.
  • The school department has taken extraordinary steps to address any increased costs for next school year associated with the pandemic. We have actually utilized savings from the current school year (due to the shutdown) to address increased PPE needs and technology needs for distance learning. We have shifted some of our Federal grant funding to fill staffing needs to address learning gaps for several of our returning students. We have surveyed families to ensure we have an accurate picture of which students will/will not return to school based on family preferences in light of the pandemic. Transportation and cleaning/sanitizing requirements are being reviewed as part of the reopening plan to be submitted to RIDE in mid-July, but we will not be submitting a plan for adding buses because the vehicles and staff to operate these new vehicles do not exist. 

Please feel free to share this perspective with anyone who might benefit from the information.

SIncerely,

James Erinakes
Superintendent