2016-06-30 / Opinion

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Schools Need to Use Tax Dollars Wisely

To the Editor:

From July 1, 2014 to March 1, 2016, the taxpayers of the City of Newport have provided the Newport School Department with more than $2,000,083 in “actual cash.” (Not shared services, etc., just real cash.) That amount, on a pro-rated basis, actually exceeds the maximum four percent year-over-year increase that a municipality can provide for a School Department by state law.

About a month ago, the Newport School Committee once again asked the Newport taxpayers for a four percent increase for the next fiscal year. This request was made before the proposed new school budget was even shared with the members of the committee. How can a responsible public body seek the maximum increase from the taxpayers without even knowing what its needs are? Absurd.

The School Department must also face additional “money realities.” To name just two, the department has a new bus contract that could cost the district hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the existing contract does. Also, the department used a onetime $147,000 state grant to offset personnel costs. This irresponsible budgeting creates a structural deficit of at least $147,000 next year, when the money is no longer available. This money would have been better used to purchase textbooks, upgrade technology resources, provide professional development, etc. (one-time costs.)

For me, it is important to show taxpayers that the School Department uses every tax dollar wisely while providing for the most effective, efficient and results-driven delivery of education. That is why I proposed a resolution, passed by a 4-3 vote on June 14, to re-arrange positions in the School Department, moving the principal of Rogers to a newly created director of curriculum position and the assistant RHS principal to the principal’s position, at the same time leaving vacant the position of assistant superintendent.

It is my belief that a small high school like Rogers (about 600 students) has plenty of support. Perhaps more support was needed in the old days (the time when I and many others were there), when Rogers was more than twice its current size. Nowadays, a principal plus a dean plus the existing position of “behavior specialist,” plus a number of department heads, and many other certified administrators who are found throughout the school district should be sufficient to provide the leadership the school needs and to maintain necessary order and discipline among students.

My proposal would allow the district to show real cash savings of at least $158,000. The School Committee cannot keep going back to taxpayers as if they are a money tree.

My friend and colleague, Jo Eva Gaines, chair of the School Committee, does not agree with me. However, I have said for some time now, and will continue to say, that I did not campaign for the committee in order to be a “rubber stamp” for its chair, the superintendent, or anyone else. I work for the residents of the City of Newport and am privileged to do so.

David R. Carlin III
Newport School Committee

Summer Lunch Kick-Off

To the Editor:

School’s out this week and lunch is in the parks for the summer! Come on over to Miantonomi Park on Thursday, June 30, from 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. for a kick-off barbecue to celebrate the beginning of the Newport Free Summer Lunch Program. The City of Newport and the Newport School Department will host this free event, bringing together our community to celebrate with food, fun, music and dancing.

All summer long on Mondays through Fridays, free lunch is offered in the parks to all children and teens aged 18 and younger. There is no income, residency, or other eligibility criteria, or any forms to fill out. All children in our community are welcome to get a free meal every weekday during the summer. Meals will be provided to all (ages 18 and younger) at city parks throughout the summer, without discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation or religion.

This great summer program is made possible by a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in order to ensure that our children stay hunger-free, healthy, active and engaged during the summer months. At least 62 percent of Newport students receive free or reduced price meals through the School Lunch Program, and the Summer Lunch Program is an extension of that to fill the gap when school is out.

Spread the word with family, friends and neighbors and send the kids over to the parks for lunch and fun activities! There’s still time to volunteer – calling all teachers, college students, local parents and neighbors, retired folks and local businesspeople. By donating just one lunch hour per week this summer to hand out free meals, you’ll be contributing so much toward the success of this program – we can’t do it without you. Volunteers are needed at Braga Park, King Park and Coggeshall playground.

For more information, please call or text 401-835-3862 or email dprendergast3@cox.net. Thanks to all the volunteers who’ve committed their time this summer. We truly appreciate it.

Dolores Prendergast
Summer Food Service Program
Coordinator

Praise for Newport Budget

To the Editor:

I have been monitoring the City of Newport’s finances and, in particular, its budgets for the past 10 years. For the first six of those years, I found several items that disturbed me about the budget proposals, which prompted the presentation of critiques in public forums sponsored by Alliance For A Livable Newport and at City Council open hearings on the budgets.

Then an encouraging change occurred. For the past four years the budget proposals have been soundly based, with only minor problems, and provide for the city’s needs as economically as possible given revenue constraints. Finance Director Laura Sitrin, in particular, deserves recognition for her efforts to achieve these commendable results. Former and current city managers Jane Howington and Joe Nicholson, respectively, and their staff also are to be praised for their role in the budget process, as is the Newport City Council for approving the budget proposals with minimal adjustments. This has, for now, eliminated the need for critical financial public forums in Newport, although the need for public scrutiny always will remain.

Ron Becker
Newport

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