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Teacher costs: still a moving target

July 19, 2012

WOONSOCKET – Continuing uncertainty over personnel needs and costs emerged as a dominant theme as the Budget Commission took its first close look at the Woonsocket Education Department’s proposed $66.2 million budget yesterday.
The WED, which overspent its $59.3 million budget for the prior fiscal year by more than $7 million, says the proposed FY 2013 figure is its best guess yet for what it will really cost to get through the fiscal year.
Even with a net cut of 16.5 teaching positions, salaries and health care costs still account for over $46 million of the spending proposal. But Schools Supt. Giovanna Donoyan and fiscal advisors from the Rhode Island Department of Education who helped the WED craft the proposal say those figures could still go up or down, depending on student enrollments in September.
Ralph Malafronte, the WED’s interim finance director, says the $8.8 million budgeted for Blue Cross coverage is $336,925 less than last year, but it’s an estimate. The WED is still waiting for Blue Cross to provide a more accurate figure based on last year’s claims experience.
The big picture problem for the commission is that the WED proposal is one piece of the proposed $122 million, combined city and school budget that’s on track to push municipal ledgers $14.1 million into the red by July 2013 unless costs can be reined in to match available revenues. Commissioner John Ward, the president of the City Council, said the challenges work against hiring high-caliber principals and teachers the WED needs to carry out its mission.
Even with a $7 million cushion built in, Ward said, “I’m not sure this budget does enough. When I look at this budget it’s still an insufficient budget. It’s depriving our managers of the ability to do the job right.”

Read more in our print edition.

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