At the first of at least two budget workshops, members of the Johnston School Committee reviewed their proposed fiscal 2013 spending plan on Thursday night at , choosing not to make any changes until the next session, scheduled for Mar. 20.
During the 90-minute session, Supt. Dr. Bernard DiLullo conducted a line-by-line reading of the 19-page budget document, which proposes a roughly $1.1 million increase over the current year budget, to a total of $49.5 million.
Hanging over the budget deliberations are contracts that the school district is seeking to negotiate with teachers, bus companies, and food service providers, which could potentially add to the costs of running the school district in the upcoming fiscal year.
The last teachers' contract expired in August, 2011, and committee member Robert Lafazia (Dist. 1) said he and member Susan Mansolillo (Dist. 5) are currently in talks with the union.
"The [state] mandated step increases are all included in this current budget, but there are no increases included in this proposal — with the situation with the town keeping us level funded, there's no way we can pay any raises," Lafazia explained during an interview after the budget workshop. "We're working to try and see if we can get this resolved as quickly as possible."
Committee Chairwoman Janice Mele (Dist. 3) said the district is "definitely" going to try and lower its costs by negotiating concessions with the vendors and union.
"We need [reductions] — we can't afford it. There's no money," Mele explained.
Mele also said that Gov. Lincoln Chafee's recent proposal to increase state payments to cities and towns — Johnston could receive another $283,000, if Chafee's plan is approved by the General Assembly — would help the committee avoid potentially painful cuts.
"We can't count that until it's in our hands [but] if we had that, we'd be all set," Mele stated. "We could cut a little here and there and be all set."
Mayor Joseph Polisena recently said he in the upcoming fiscal year — for the school district, it would mark the fifth straight year without and increase in town funds.
The budget proposed Thursday night seeks a $584,000 increase from the town.
In order to bring their spending plan in line with the mayor's proposal, members of the committee discussed big-ticket items — like out-of-district bus transportation (about $1 million) — as well as comparatively small budget accounts, like the district's $40,000 budget for copy paper, to try and identify areas for potential cuts.
Member Joseph Rotella (Dist. 4) noted that a retirement in the Information Technology department may allow the district to reduce the salary line item for that position, and member Lorraine Iafrate asked about expected increases in vision care for special education students, among other queries from the board.
Following DiLullo's presentation, members decided to recess the meeting until their next scheduled budget workshop on Tuesday night at 6 p.m. in the Ferri Middle School Library. The board has tentatively scheduled a third session for Mar. 22, if needed.