Officials for both the schools and town say the upcoming Fiscal 2024 could be tough on Middletown. #MiddletownRI
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FISCAL 2024 BUDGET PREP BEGINS
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (JANUARY 17, 2023) – The Town of Middletown has officially started its budget preparation process.
Per state statute, the schools provided an early look at the preliminary Fiscal 2024 numbers to the Town Council for the first time Tuesday night at Town Hall.
Based on the early totals, school officials said they were facing continued issues with the education budget and would likely have to ask for a 4 percent budget increase in the upcoming fiscal year.
Superintendent Rosemarie K. Kraeger said there were a variety of concerns, everything from the declining conditions of the buildings, struggling English Language Learner (ELL) population, contractual increases and the potential dissolution of the Newport County Regional Special Education, among other problems.
Totals from the town’s Finance Department indicated the schools could receive up to $1,142,000 under state law.
“The 4 percent will not be enough,” Kraeger told the council.
In response, council President Paul M. Rodrigues said based on all the needs identified by Kraeger, it would likely be much more.
“You’re probably talking, with everything you said tonight, probably $2 to $3 million — or more,” Rodrigues said. “I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but I’m not sure that can happen.”
Opening the conversation, Kraeger thanked the council for going above and beyond for the schools in the current Fiscal 2023 budget.
In addition to providing a 4 percent budget hike, she said the council set aside $900,000 in American Rescue Plan Act money as well as $500,000 in discretionary money, $200,000 for the fine arts program and funding for the school’s “Beyond the Bell” efforts. That’s about $2 million more than what is the maximum under state law.
Kraeger cited a litany of problems facing the schools, indicating costs were rising, but the school’s ability to keep up was not.
She said state aid was likely down — potentially more than $800,000 — but the demands on the school system continued.
Throughout her 30 minute plus presentation, she did not mention the ongoing education deficit, which was last reported to the council at $2 million.
To help provide a better accounting of the school’s books, Kraeger mentioned the town and schools were investigating the prospect of combining finance and business service offices.
Council Vice President Thomas Welch III and others had questions about how in a community facing an affordable housing crisis, the school’s were seeing a rise in some of the most vulnerable populations like English Language Learners. Kraeger said the schools were looking at close to $1 million in new costs for all the new ELL teachers needed.
“On one hand, we’re talking about affordable housing because there’s no place to live, yet the people who are most needy somehow got here and are in our schools?” Welch asked. “I can’t (understand it).”
On the town side, Town Administrator Shawn J. Brown said there were a number of issues as well.
No. 1 on the list was the economy and the potential recession on the way. Then, he cited the need to balance the school budget, the state aid funding formula and figuring out what to do with the school buildings.
Based on rising costs of labor, Brown said it was expected that the price of beach parking would rise in the summer of 2023. At the same time, Brown said rising tipping fees and other expenses would likely result in a recommendation to boost the annual “Pay-As-You-Throw” trash and recycling cost too.
According to a proposed budget presented Tuesday night, the School Committee was expected to submit its proposed budget to Brown on March 22. From there, Brown must file a proposed budget for the enter town on April 1.
Public hearings on the preliminary financials were slated tentatively for June 14 and June 21. The date and location for those sessions had not been finalized this week.
Document Link: https://www.middletownri.com/DocumentCenter/View/6739/NYCU-School-Budget