School budget seeks small increaseMay ask town for $4.5 million
In a preliminary overview of the Block Island School’s 2013-2014 fiscal year budget, Superintendent Bob Hicks recommended a 2-percent budget increase to the School Committee at its Monday, January 14, meeting.
The expense budget would total $4,707,966, an increase of $94,044 over the current year’s budgeted amount.
For the proposed budget, $4,502,590 would come from town funding, a 1.9-percent increase ($84,729) over the current year. Hicks noted that the state allows up to a 4-percent increase per year.
Hicks explained in his report that the teacher salary scale is frozen, but teachers still receive “step increases” — additional money based on years of services. “Seven teachers receive such increases and with taxes added the total cost of those is $33,438,” he wrote in the report.
Health insurance costs will also rise, noted Hicks in the budget report.
The superintendent said that special education costs are projected to rise by about $32,000 to accommodate a student’s needs. Although it’s not indicated in the proposed budget, Hicks added that a handicap lift might also require repair in the years to come.
Hicks noted in the budget report some measures used to cut costs — such as an administrative re-organization, which is still under consideration by the School Committee.
Committee Chair Bill Padien asked if there would be any money allocated for purchase of computer tablets. Hicks said there’s $30,000 (no increase from last year) allocated to technology equipment replacement, and it is not yet known what needs to be replaced.
Committee members wondered if tablets that provide digital books could help offset future textbook costs. Math and science books were replaced about two years ago, but Hicks foresees science books needing replacement again within a few years. Money allocated for textbooks remains the same as last year, $13,859.
Many other budget lines would remain the same, or see slight reductions or increases. The School Committee will hold three workshops within the next month to further review the proposed budget, scheduled for Jan. 22, Jan. 28 and Feb. 4.
Attendance and administration
The committee reviewed attendance records, and had questions and comments about how this year’s revised schedule affected attendance.
The revised schedule, introduced this year, lengthens school days by one half-hour on Mondays through Thursdays, and shortens Fridays by two hours. It was devised to allow students to play off-island athletic games without missing too much class time.
Attendance was at 91.9 percent this December, while it was at 91.6 percent last year.
Friday attendance, Hicks noted, was affected by a December 21 storm that cancelled the boats — about one-quarter of the school was absent on that day.
Padien wondered how the staff has handled the schedule change. Committee member Elizabeth Connor requested a breakdown of Monday and Thursday attendance, to see if the schedule change helped attendance on those days. Connor also wondered if it was possible to see absentee rates without sicknesses.
Committee member Annie Hall requested grade point averages, to see if the schedule change affected them negatively or positively.
Hicks went on to say that teachers provided feedback on the proposed administrative reorganization — which would create one full-time principal (who would perform principal duties while also acting as curriculum director), eliminate one part-time co-principal, reduce the hours of a remaining part-time co-principal and reduce hours of the superintendent. “I can’t find anything that I would disagree with,” he said. “I would be in 100 percent support of the things they are asking about.” He said teachers had questions about Common Core implementation, curriculum writing and tech support, among other things.
The full-time principal would be helping to re-organize the school and bring in other resources, explained Hicks.
In other business, the committee voted to accept a policy for graduation requirements.