The 2013 state budget approved by the House Finance Committee last night could help ease some of the budget woes being faced by the Cranston School District.
The budget calls for an accelleration of the fair funding forumula in addition to fully funding it next year by adding an extra $11 million to the $22 million designated for the formula.
That means Cranston Schools will recieve about $1.1 million more in state aid next year.
That would mean that the school district would only be $200,000 short in next years' $133.5 million school budget. The district had asked the city for an additional $1.6 million over last year, but was level funded by the city.
School officials don't yet know if the state budget maintains about $900,000 in Jobs Bill funding that the district lost last year. If it is not restored, the $1.1 million in extra aid would really be more like $200,000. That would leave the district still stuck trying to find about $1.1 million in savings. Better, but not by much.
"The problem lies in that we don't know what [the House of Representatives] did with the Jobs Bill funding," said School Committee Chairwoman Andrea Iannazzi.
We'll have an update on the final budget picture soon.
Here's more information about the 2013 state budget from the Legislative Press Bureau at the State House:
The budget, which is expected to come before the full House for a vote Thursday, June 7, at 2 p.m., uses the $102 million surplus from the current year to eliminate Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s proposed acceleration of fee increases at the Division of Motor Vehicles, which will instead be phased in over three years beginning in 2014, as originally intended.
“This budget is excellent news for education and for our struggling cities and towns,” said Rep. Helio Melo, chairman of the House Finance Committee, which held months of hearings on the bill (2012-H 7323A). “In an era when we’ve often struggled to even maintain funding for many of our programs, we were able to get more money to schools sooner than expected, and speed up money for distressed communities. It’s also good for taxpayers, because we were able to prevent several tax and fee increases. We were able to use a great deal of Governor Chafee’s proposal, and we’re grateful to him and all of those who brought their ideas to the table so we can do as much as we can for the state with the resources we have.”
The bill reinstates $9.6 million in state and federal funding for programs for the developmentally disabled to restore a substantial amount of cuts made this year. It also maintains dental coverage for adults on Medicaid, which had been on the chopping block when the budget was first introduced but was restored with money from the Neighborhood Health Plan.
It also includes $22 million to fully fund the second year of the new state education aid formula, as well as an additional $11 million, as the governor proposed, to accelerate the implementation. Additionally, the proposal includes the governor’s plan to give cities and towns a break on “maintenance of effort” – a requirement that their local contribution to schools not fall below 95 percent of what it was the year before – so they can exclude the local share of any non-recurring expenses that no longer exist, such as payments on a bond that has since been paid off.
To assist struggling municipalities, the committee concurred with the governor’s proposal to accelerate state aid payments to distressed communities, which are currently distributed in two payments, into a single payment. The bill also changes the schedule for school aid distribution so districts will have more of their aid at the start of the school year.
Central Falls will receive the $2.6 million over five years that the governor had proposed to help with its municipal pension crisis. The money is meant to restore some of the deep cuts made by the city’s state-appointed receiver.
The version of the bill approved by the committee stripped the budget of the governor’s proposal to raise the tax on restaurant meals from 8 percent to 10 percent, and also rejects an expansion of the hotel tax to include vacation rentals. Additionally, it repeals a tax enacted last year on scenic tours and transportation services.
It does subject luxury clothing costing $250 or more to the sales tax for the first time, a change expected to generate $5.9 million for the state, and makes taxi and limousine rides, car washes and pet services other than veterinary costs subject to the sales tax. The committee also concurred with the governor’s proposal to raise the cigarette tax from $3.46 to $3.50 per pack, to raise $1.8 million. The House Finance Committee kept intact the governor’s proposal for a 75-day amnesty period in the fall when delinquent taxpayers can pay back taxes without penalty, with a 25-percent reduction on interest, with an estimate that $10.9 million in unpaid taxes will be collected.
The bill includes about $209 million in bond questions that will appear on the November ballot, including $50 million for modernization of Rhode Island College, including upgrades to its present nursing school facility; a new $94 million proposal for a new Veteran’s Home and assisted living facility and rehabilitation of the current facility; a $25 million bond to build affordable housing, $20 million for clean water upgrades and $20 for open space and recreation (to which another $5 million of existing, non-borrowed funds will be added). The budget eliminates the need for a previously approved $25 million transportation bond by paying for the proposal, which includes upgrades to the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority bus fleet, through existing federal and state funds, without borrowing.
A new proposal introduced in the amended bill begins a process of consolidating the work of the Board of Governors for Higher Education and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education into a single entity. Combining the two entities into a single structure would help coordinate the state’s education systems to ensure that students graduating from high school are fully prepared for college.
For business, funding was included to institute electronic business permitting to make it easier to do business in Rhode Island. Also, the bill expands the field for those who can apply to the film and television tax credit program, adding theatrical and musical touring productions mounted in the state and allowing smaller-budget documentaries to apply, but also sunsets the tax credit in 2019. The proposal also sets a $5 million cap for each individual production (within the $15 million cap on the program overall), and adds a new rule excluding any entity from receiving the tax credit if they apply for a state loan or loan guaranty.
The amended bill does not alter the governor’s proposal to transfer control of the Sakonnet River Bridge to the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority.
The committee rejected a proposal by the governor to lower a charge on telecommunications that funds school technology, but expand it to include cellular telephones, avoiding a new 15-cent a month monthly surcharge on cell phone bills.
It also declined his proposals to eliminate state funding for school breakfast programs and for eliminating reimbursements to school districts for books they provide to students in private and parochial schools.