Residents urged to participate in Lincoln FTM on Monday

Residents urged to participate in Lincoln FTM on Monday

LINCOLN - If the chatter leading up to the town's Financial Town Meeting next Monday is any indication, the annual event that decides the town's budget should bring out more residents than in recent years.

At stake, in addition to the $78.9 million budget proposed by the Budget Board that gives a 3 percent increase to schools and a 0.6 percent increase to the municipal budget, is an additional $500,000 in school funding.

School officials contend they need the funds to adequately provide for students and families at a time when charter school tuitions continue to climb to a total of almost $2 million annually.

But the opposing town officials point to the school's $828,000 surplus fund, declining enrollment and increasing state aid to say the proposed $51.11 million school budget, plus $1.5 million for the construction of an artificial turf Ferguson Field, is enough.

The half-million dollar resolution that would increase the town appropriation to schools by $2 million this year and every year after was submitted by residents last month, as is allowed per the town's charter. Its purpose, they say, is to fund medical claims and four teaching positions.

Financial Director John Ward said should the $500,000 increase be approved, it would add 25 cents to the tax rate.

The tax levy increase would go from 1.12 percent to 2.07 percent, resulting in the 25-cent rate increase that's in addition to the 7-cent increase under Town Hall's proposed budget.

Though the town approves only a bottom line for the schools, the resolution suggests splitting the funds almost evenly, with $240,000 going to alleviate overcrowding issues at the elementary level by removing two layoff notices sent to two full-time teachers and two part-time teacher assistants. The $260,000 is in case medical claims total more than what was budgeted.

At the last public meeting before groups meet again in the Lincoln High School auditorium Monday, May 12, at 7 p.m., School Committee Chairwoman Kristine Donabedian told the Budget Board that she would back the splitting of the resolution at the FTM, so votes on each part could be taken separately.

She also said "we can live with" the Budget Board's alternate proposal that the board would approve a supplemental appropriation at next year's FTM should the school budget have a deficit because of medical claims.

But, Donabedian said, the additional funds are needed to avoid laying off two teachers to address parent concerns, so that resources are equitable among the elementary schools, and so overcrowded classrooms are addressed.

"We're not hiring new people," she said. "We're just calling back teachers who would have been laid off."

The plan is to move the entire pre-kindergarten program to Northern Lincoln Elementary School, where Donabedian said the school has capacity. The bathrooms are already compliant, but the school department would have to free up an extra bus. Because the playground is not large enough to accommodate the additional children, she said recess will be staggered, and some equipment from Lonsdale Elementary School will be moved to Northern.

Then, Central Elementary School and Lonsdale would each receive one teacher and part-time teacher assistant, which Donabedian said will alleviate overages at all four elementary schools and reunite families with kids split in different districts.

Supt. Georgia Fortunato said the $240,000 recommended includes salaries, as well as supplies. If enrollment happens to decline to a point of not needing those extra teachers, Fortunato said she would repurpose the money for literary coaches or a preschool teacher.

The vote on the extra funding will take place after votes on the proposed municipal budget of $19.07 million and resolutions, and before the proposed school budget, Budget Board Moderator Robert Turner said.

See story at right for more information on FTM procedure.

At last Thursday's meeting, talks also centered around level-funding. Fortunato maintains the district has been level-funded.

Budget Board Chairman Carl Brunetti, on the other hand, said, "Other than one year, when the (maintenance of effort) was allowed to be reduced, only the local contribution has been level-funded. The overall budget has increased each of the past five years because of increases in state aid and Medicaid reimbursements."

The following information, provided by Ward, details the school budget history from fiscal years 2010-2015, with the last year including Budget Board proposals, but not the additional school funding:

* FY10: Total appropriation - $47.2 million; with $40.1 million from local funds, $6.4 million from state aid, and $650,000 from Medicaid.

* FY11: Total appropriation - $46.5 million; with $39.3 million from local funds, $6.3 million from state aid, and $850,000 from Medicaid.

* FY12: Total appropriation - $47.8 million; with $39.7 million from local funds, $6.9 million from state aid, and $900,000 from Medicaid.

* FY13: Total appropriation - $48.5 million; with $39.7 million from local funds, $7.9 million from state aid, and $1 million from Medicaid.

* FY14: Total appropriation - $49.6 million; with $39.7 million from local funds, $8.9 million from state aid, and $1 million from Medicaid.

* Proposed FY15: Total appropriation - $51.1 million; with $40.2 million from local funds, $9.9 million from state aid, and $1 million from Medicaid.

Budget Board members passed out packets at the meeting that included salary increases during this time for 10 highest paid school's administrators, which ranged from 11 percent for the Saylesville Elementary School principal to 37.3 percent for the human resources coordinator.

From FY10 to FY15, Fortunato's salary has increased 15.9 percent to $153,604, should the budget be approved as proposed.

According to the 2013 Municipal Salary Survey prepared by the Rhode Island Department of Revenue and Division of Municipal Finance, Fortunato's FY14 salary of $149,130 was among the top third in the state, approximately the same as Charlestown, and behind Providence, Warwick, Pawtucket, Cumberland, Newport, Middletown, South Kingstown, Scituate and Woonsocket.

Regardless of the outcome, Budget Board members spoke during their meeting about the benefits of the community getting involved in the process this year.

Speaking of the additional school funding, Turner said, "Whether it passes or fails at the meeting, I can assure you it will be a fair fight. This is how the town of Lincoln operates."

He added, "This is how the process is supposed to work."

Budget Board member Hagop Jawharjian said he hopes to see a large turnout at the meeting to combat the feelings of apathy in past years.

Fellow member Michael Babbitt agreed.

"It was nice to see people involved in the process this year," he said. "Whether it was contentious or not, it was nice to see people involved."

Comments

It’s very concerning in how these events have taken place. Raising questions as to the legitimacy of this article and the selectively chosen facts offered to the public.

What is not told to the public is the true reason for the increase of the school systems operating budget.

A few years ago Town Administrator Almond and Council President Keith Macksoud along with the other council members took it upon themselves to financially obligate the people of Lincoln to funding Mayor Academies.
Paying out 2 million this year alone with a conservative outlook projected at 8 million more in the not to distance future.
Administrator Almond who also sits on the executive board of the Mayoral Academy had taken it upon himself to reduce the school committee budget, an act that is not granted to his office per our town charter.

Conflict of interest??!! Town Administrator Almond reduces the Lincoln public school systems operating budget but fully funds his needs for his mayoral academy budget! I ask: where are the checks and balances here? Where is the transparency?

Lincoln tax payer’s dollars are to be utilized for the Lincoln public school system and no other!

Administrator Almond has said publicly that the Lincoln school system is falling short in areas of education and further stated that he acknowledged the overcrowding problem in the elementary schools.

With this, Almonds` reaction is not to better our own schools, but rather takes our tax dollars and obligate millions of dollars for the future expansion of mayoral academies. (If this is not enough, a professional lobbyist was hired to push the agenda)! Tax dollars to lobby a new school system that takes away from the public school system? ), and they call it competition?

The true culprits to the funding problems fall solely at the feet of the Town Administrator and Town Council and no other!

If the people at the finical town meeting vote to remove the 2 million for Mayoral Academies, will not only save the tax payers money but render the 500,000 resolution in question irrelevant.

There you have it.

Put Lincoln Public schools first
Save 2 million dollars
Elevate the overcrowding of the elementary level. Everyone wins!!!

Fortunato's salary has increased 15.9 percent to $153,604.

How is the superintendents salary have anything to do with the resolution that will be before the voters?
Character assassination perhaps,
I ask the Valley Breeze why the Town Administrator salary is not mentioned.
Administrator Almond is currently receiving his police pension as he currently serves as Town Administrator. If that is not enough, while receiving his pension and working as Administrator, Administrator Almond has issued himself a new pension that pays a 8% match every month on time while he continues to underfund other employee pensions!
It’s time for the Breeze to disclose its conflict with reporting Lincoln News! Before Almond was even sworn in office he had put out a press release that he would hire Valley Breeze publishers brother to become the town finance director, hence not one questionable nor negative article has ever been written about Lincoln’s administration. A feat no other republican or democrat administrator has ever achieved!

I generally prefer not to comment on commenters, but as Lincoln1 has chosen to insult me and (indirectly) Editor Marcia Green, I'll reply. My brother, John Ward, is Lincoln's finance director because he's really smart. He's a CPA, and spent 10 years on the Woonsocket School Committee, and 8 more on its City Council. He was the school Business Manager in Johnston, and worked in the Woonsocket Housing Authority. He brings a wealth of knowledge to the position, and understands state mandates, real or imagined. (Yes, school officials can dream up mandates in an effort to gain more money and pull the wool over an administrator's eyes. It happens. And John can stop it in every town he serves in).
Lincoln is in good shape, in large part because of Twin River and the Route 116 corridor. Both began long before Mr. Almond or my brother arrived. I do, however, think they are smart for spending the money prudently and not buying extras. They spend only what the town has, and not some promised cash stream that might disappear as Mass. casinos open. So yes, I think things are well run.
We can debate the Charter Schools and the cost to Lincoln. That's a relevant debate.
But, Mr. Lincoln1, you say "no negative article has ever been written about Lincoln's administration." When you say that, you indirectly make the charge that I interfere with my editor and our reporters. On that you are wrong. And when you write "a feat no other republican or democrat administrator has ever achieved!" I say, show me that evidence. There is none, of course. You're just making this up as you go along.
Yes, I'm proud of my brother, and know he does good work for the people of Lincoln. If he ever strays from that, it will be reported. But I don't worry about that, or your silly charge.

The Town Council never voted for for Charter Schools. This mandate came from the State Board of Education.

I do agree that our School Budget and taxpayers should not be required to fund this mandate. Ironically we have class sizes too large while we are paying Blackstone Valley Prep tution for classes with student teacher ratios half the size of some classrooms in Lincoln.

Money only goes to BVP from Lincoln if Lincoln residents apply to and get in to BVP. If we can create a Lincoln school system that is so good no one would ever leave, BVP will simply be Cumberland, Pawtucket, and Central Falls' concern. In the meantime, why not focus on improving our schools with the resources we do have?

I thought I had seen everything until I heard School Committee members complaining about BVP. Are you kidding me? Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy has done amazing things with students. In fact the NECAP test scores demonstrate continued levels of significant achievement! The bar has been raised and for less money. Isn't it all about the students? Do you really expect the funding not to follow the student? Given that there are School Committee members who don't send their kids to Lincoln schools, isn't that a tell all too? We have been throwing tax money into Lincoln Schools for years and it is never enough.