Budget impasse could cost schools $3 million
The state budget impasse has left more than $45 million in school funding up in the air, with about $3 million of that being unavailable to Cranston as the fiscal year gets underway.
Cranston’s original budget request for FY 2018, which was $58,171,589, would be reduced back to the FY 2017 allocation of $55,226,925, according to an analysis released Wednesday by the Rhode Island Department of Education. That reduction of $2,944,664 is the fourth-largest drop across the state behind only Woonsocket, Pawtucket and Providence.
Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse said Tuesday that the district is safe in the short-term with fewer staff to pay during the summer and some projects that have already been paid for. However, she added that the reduced funding could become a major issue if it continues on for weeks or months.
“I will have to discuss this with the school committee and the mayor and his administration at some point, but right now we’re OK for the short [term],” Nota-Masse said. “But the long-term impact of this as this goes on, I’m not sure how it will impact us as we start the school year. We will have to look at all outspending right now and see if this will impact us in the long term.”
Nota-Masse said she could not predict just yet if any projects would have to be suspended or postponed as a result of the impasse.
“I can’t speak to that right now,” Nota-Masse said. “Short-term we’re OK because a lot of things have been planned and paid for, but if this continues on for several weeks or more we have to look at it.”
Cranston School Committee Chairperson Janice Ruggieri said that the schools would lose about $75,000 in their first payment from the state, though the losses would amount to more than $250,000 per payment after that.
There are additional hits the district could take as well.
“The other piece to this is that [until] the budget has passed, revenue sources are not being collected,” Ruggieri said. “For example, the cigarette tax they were planning on putting in, there’s no revenue being collected because it hasn’t passed. It’s a huge impact for every city and town, but for us it’s just another hit in the year that hasn’t been very kind to us.”
Mark Schieldrop, assistant to Mayor Allan Fung, said Tuesday that any school improvement or renovation projects would not be affected by the potential reduction, as that money comes from bonds and not funding.
“Those projects, over time, we pay for over years and years through debt service,” Schieldrop said. “The millions we’re investing in the schools are from the bonds. We’re going to try to work together as a city, as a whole to figure out the best way to get through this situation.”
The district has already had to compensate for a $1.75 million shortfall through operational cuts in its already conservative budget. The details of where money was relocated were referenced in a Herald report from June 28.
Both Ruggieri and Nota-Masse said there was a school committee work session planned for Wednesday where the topic will be brought up. However, Nota-Masse added that the budget cannot be discussed “at length” because the agenda was created before the news came down from RIDE.
“We will maybe have a brief discussion about it, but it won’t be discussed at length,” Nota-Masse said. “It will be more in depth on Monday during the regular school committee session.”