Letter: Budgeting requires a careful look at math | Opinion

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The annual joint budget meeting of the North Kingstown City Council and School Board was held on April 13th. Here are some of my comments from that meeting.

I will look at the budget from a different perspective. Call it a compare and contrast exercise.

I live in a neighborhood of 19 single family homes. Eighteen are owner occupied and one is a single family rental. Three of the families have a total of four children in NK schools and two have preschoolers on the way. The rest is occupied by retirees and widowers on social security, SSDI and maybe a pension. A couple receives a low-income senior’s exemption.

The total property tax collected on the 19 properties is $91,294.

A top teacher in North Kingstown has a base salary this year of $87,614. According to the most recent comprehensive annual financial report, payroll benefits amount to 38% of salaries in the school district. This brings the total salary and payroll benefits of a top teacher to $120,907 per year.

In addition, teachers receive a stipend for a master’s degree ranging from $3,349 to $4,344. After 15 years of service, they receive a longevity bonus of between $1,320 and $5,305.

Stipends are paid to curriculum coordinators, STEM coordinators, department chairs, music coaches and teachers, yearbook and newspaper advisors, and senior project coordinators in addition to salaries.

The total property taxes collected from all the houses on my street is a far cry from paying a top teacher in town. I believe the majority of teachers in North Kingstown are the highest paid.

I’m not saying this to attack teachers. My late wife worked for the school department for over 25 years and I know and respect many teachers and support staff. My daughter is currently a teacher in an urban primary school. I am well aware of the demands placed on teachers who are supposed to be social workers, grief counselors, family relations experts and anger management specialists. They are expected to do this and impart enough learning for their students to do well on standardized tests that are part of the teacher evaluation process.

It’s not an easy job!

I suspect the teachers’ union is going to demand a big pay rise in this year’s contract negotiations in light of the current economic climate. I urge the school board and administration to remember that those of us on a retirement budget are not getting raises to keep pace with the inflation caused by the current administration and Congress in Washington.

The proposed municipal budget is north of $111 million in a city of 26,000.

Thanks to a compliant legislature, teachers’ unions now enjoy perpetual contractual protection. If their demands are excessive, I suggest that the current contract with NEANK, which provides for a three per cent salary increase, be allowed to “perpetuate”.

Richard J.August

North Kingstown

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