During this very challenging year, Barrington Public Schools has remained focused on setting high expectations for student achievement and has continued to provide our students with high quality instruction and supports. Our first-rate teachers and all of the members of our BPS community have come together this year to not only support one another, but to ensure that our students continue to receive a world-class education--a fact that is abundantly clear from our multiple state and national awards as well as our student achievement this year.
Aligned to the District’s Strategic Plan, the 2021-2022 budget represents the District’s commitment to our community, staff and students by providing not just a world-class education but providing our students and educators with the essential materials and resources educators require to continue to deliver high-quality instruction to our students. We also recognize that the majority of our district funding is supported by local tax resources. For these reasons, as we do annually, we carefully examined our budget proposal to ensure that it is both student-centered and fiscally responsible.
On March 3 the School Committee approved the FY22 budget which includes many of the District’s priorities and initiatives supported by both the school administration and the School Committee. The budget priorities for the Fiscal Year 2022 target the following three important initiatives directly aligned to the District’s Strategic Plan:
1. Our first priority is to continue to support the update of our English language art and mathematics curricula as required by the RI Department of Education. Total alignment needs to be in place from Kindergarten to 12th Grade by June 2023 and we are well on our way to meeting that requirement. In addition to meeting the state mandate, the District and our community want our educators to be able to engage our students in a rigorous and challenging high-quality education. As always, we continue to explore grant opportunities to fund these costs rather than using our local appropriation but we must have the funding in place in order to meet the requirements on time.
2. Our second priority is to expand the support of our employees while streamlining the administrative support within the central office with the addition of a part-time Human Resources position. This addition will also allow our current administrators to focus on their daily tasks related to payroll, budget, facilities management, strategic planning, and more while also reducing our reliance on outside legal counsel.
3. Our third priority is to increase our technology support department by two positions. Due to the past 10 years of significant growth in the use of technological devices, equipment, and systems which has included expansion of many online educational programs and resources, without a concomitant increase in support staff, the additional positions are necessary to allow the continued growth and support of our programs.
Overview of the 2021-2022 Proposed Operating Budget for the Barrington Public Schools:
The District’s FY22 Operating and Capital Budget request represents an increase in spending of $2.33M or 4.25%. The taxpayers’ impact has been significantly mitigated by the anticipated increase of $2.18M from the State Aid Funding Formula (plus additional categorical funds for High Cost Special Education expenses and English Language Learners). Because of this unprecedented increase in the State Funding Formula Aid, the net increase from local taxpayers for the operating budget is $193,329 or a 0.4% increase in the tax levy.
The proposed FY22 budget covers costs associated with maintaining all existing programs and services, without eliminating any teaching positions or extracurricular programs. Enrollment projections guided the administration when developing the Comprehensive FY22 Budget and we will continue to closely monitor student enrollment as well as building capacity, especially at our elementary levels. It is not uncommon that staffing needs may be adjusted as late as August due to changes in enrollment which occurs from June through August.
Please see a summary of our operating expenses broken down by category below:
The School Improvement Capital Reserve Fund
As a result of careful monitoring of spending, the District has, in recent years, ended the school year with modest surpluses (averaging about 1.5% of the total approved budget). Due to these surpluses and other financial best practices, the Town and Barrington Public Schools have been acknowledged by bond rating agencies through our excellent credit rating. Included with these best practices are surplus funds at the end of the school year are then used for one-time, long-term capital improvement projects which are eligible for 35% (or more) RIDE State Housing Aid reimbursement. Most of our capital expenditures qualify for partial RIDE reimbursement (meaning we receive $0.35 for every dollar spent for future capital needs) which we redeposited into our capital reserve fund. The strategic use of these funds for facility repairs and improvements has allowed our community to avoid issuing bonds for many capital projects, saving significant expenses related to bond fees and interest. The Facilities Advisory Committee is currently identifying a firm to conduct a District-wide study (funded through a State Grant) in order to determine future priority setting and planning. Public input for long-range planning is also solicited through the Town’s Budget Forecasting Committee and our Facility Advisory Committee. The FY21 Budget Forecasting Committee Report can be found here.
On March 30, 2021, the Committee on Appropriations (COA) asked the school administration what a cut of $476K from the FY22 proposed budget would look like, which would bring the budget to a 4% increase over FY21 (vs. the then proposed 4.9%). On April 6, 2021, the School Department presented a further reduction of $339,492 which resulted in a revised budget increase of 4.25% from FY21. This revised proposal does not eliminate any teaching positions or extracurricular programs. The COA appeared to endorse the $339,492 reduction to the School Budget. In addition, the COA expressed support for the $388,595 School’s Capital appropriation request. The Capital request includes Technology expenses of $318,595 (for our 1:1 initiative, a wireless access point replacement plan, additional computers, carts, and Chromebooks) and $70,000 to replace a Special Education MiniBus.
On May 4, 2021,two members of the COA requested the school to look at further reducing the school budget to 4% which is an additional reduction of over $152K. The next COA meeting is scheduled for May 11, 2021 at 7:00 PM broadcast via Zoom, when a vote to recommend the school’s appropriation is expected. The final FTM budget approval by the residents of Barrington is scheduled for June 16, 2021 at 7:00 PM at the High School.