School board ponders budget

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:49

    WARWICK-Coleen Johnson was reelected to the Warwick School Board last week, but any celebration was tempered by the defeat of the school budget by just 15 votes. Now the board must decide whether to adopt a contingency budget or give voters another shot at approving the $69.75 million spending plan. "We are leaning toward putting it up again," said Johnson after a work session with her fellow board members Monday. But she is reluctant. "I have mixed feelings about putting it up for another vote," she said. "We had a low turnout. If it means so much to people, they should come out the first time and vote yes. We shouldn't have to put the budget up a second time. It is upsetting." The board can put up the same budget with no revision for another vote, which is up 7.79 percent over last year's budget; it can reduce the budget and put it up for a vote; or it can adopt a contingency budget, also known as an austerity budget. The state sets the amount of a contingency budget. This year, the board would have to cut about $1 million from the proposed budget. Some cost cutting ideas mentioned by the district include half-day kindergarten, reducing bus stops, eliminating the Arts in Education program, increasing elementary class sizes and reducing high school electives. "We will have to cut programs and staff," she said. Johnson expressed disappointment at voter apathy. She said it is ironic that we have troops fighting around the world to give freedoms to others, yet here in our country we do not exercise our right to vote. And, with so many unfunded state and federal mandates, the burden falls onto taxpayers year after year. "This year we are getting 28 percent in aid," Johnson said. "That's the lowest we've had in years. So much of our costs are in state and federal mandates. We have no choice but to pay for them." A budget must be in place by July 1.