Should All Rhode Island School Departments Be Budgeting for a Zero State Aid Increase?
Mayor Susan D. Menard submitted a $115.7-million budget yesterday that calls for a 3.85-percent tax rate increase — only the third tax hike in the mayor’s 12-year administration.And Douglas Hadden of the Pawtucket Times reports that city officials in Pawtucket are also expecting the legislature to reduce and maybe eliminate the Governor’s proposed 3% increase in state education aid…
“In my 12 years as mayor this is the most difficult one I have had to put together,” Menard said yesterday, citing a decrease in state aid and increases in fixed costs such as state pension contributions, health care and debt service….
Menard has budgeted for a $100,000 decrease in state aid for schools and level funding in general revenue sharing from the state.
“I can’t tell you how the General Assembly is going to balance the state’s mess,” Menard said.
With legislative leaders struggling to reduce a projected $360 million state budget deficit, the question increasingly seems to have become not whether something has to give, but what.If there was ever any doubt about how the legislature plans to modify the Governor’s budget, there isn’t anymore; the plan is to reduce spending on education to protect spending on social welfare programs and state government operations.
How much of the city’s projected boost in state aid could be threatened remains unclear, but a cut of some kind appears increasingly likely. “There’s a good chance – I’m not saying it’s definite – but there’s a good chance that could happen,” acknowledged City Clerk Richard Goldstein, who is the Doyle administration’s lobbyist on Smith Hill.
Goldstein said he first heard such talk from Daniel Beardsley, executive director of the League of Cities and Towns, at a meeting a few weeks ago, and proceeded to relay the news to key city officials.
Beardsley’s message about the local aid levels budgeted by the governor was that “it doesn’t look like we’re going to get it,” Goldstein related. “I’ve also heard it up at the Statehouse, that we shouldn’t plan on it, don’t plan on it.”
Is this the strategy the citizens of Rhode Island want to see implemented?