Open Letter: A Hurricane of Spending

Last week I had the pleasure of attending both the joint Town Council/School Committee CIP and the building committee meetings. As expected, the chief topic was the proposed 90 million school bond to move the high school to the current CCMS and adding an addition to BRMS to consolidate 6th-8th grades.

As the assistant wrestling coach at the high school and being in that building from Thanksgiving to March, I would love to be in a brand-new building in the future. I also love the idea of my wife and I living in a 5 bedroom, 5 bath, 1.5 million dollar house on Ocean Road. But what I want is not always what I need. Unfortunately, my coaching stipend somehow cannot afford that 1.5 million dollar house. The taxpayers in South Kingstown can’t afford to pay for the debt they would be shouldering over the next two decades if these changes go through.

Here’s why: According to Town Manager Rob Zarnetske’s presentation the other night this new debt would raise taxes for a home assessed at 350k by over $1000 per year by the year 2025. The problem is that this amount needs to be combined with yearly adjustments that are part of the budget process, making that thousand-dollar assessment leap to $2300 in real dollar terms, according to Mr. Zarnetske. 

Yes, you read that right, $2,300 MORE per year to support an ever-shrinking school population, at the ADDITIONAL cost of severely limiting the town’s ability to support any of its OTHER operations, not to mention the side effect of making it even MORE expensive to buy here. It’s ironic that this town has sunk countless time and energy into attempting to make SK more affordable, yet the town is now in danger of being financially wiped out with this hurricane of spending. 

We CURRENTLY spend $22,000 per student, a considerable chunk of change. In fact, it’s among the highest of any school district in southern New England with similar student population levels. Which is why it struck me as odd that School Committee Chair Stephanie Canter stated at the meeting that we have put off maintenance at these buildings for decades. If that truly is the case, where is the 22k per student going? Are we mismanaging our budget that badly that we cannot afford to maintain our buildings with an already extremely generous (dare I say, lavish) budget?  

Chair Canter also stated that, “We can’t afford a Cadillac but we want them to thrive.” She’s correct in that we DO want our students to thrive, but she’s wrong in that at 22k per student we are ALREADY paying for a Cadillac. The School Committee really has two choices here: The easy thing for them to do is make everyone else pay more, just like they did last year. The hard thing for them to do is find the fat in the budget, get rid of it, and strategically plan for a long-term course that allows both the students and the taxpayers of SK to thrive. Hopefully they make the right choice.

5 thoughts on “Open Letter: A Hurricane of Spending

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  1. Start lookibg at what subjects are truly unnecessary. Some subjectscare ekectives or open to few students and are provably not cost effective. Time to look at these and start cutting the budget.


  2. Start looking at what subjects are truly unnecessary. Some subjects are electives or open to few students and are probably not cost effective. Time to look at these and start cutting the budget.


  3. Spotlight comment on AP’s Jan’20 blog 

    Alex: thank you sir, I could not agree more. I read this post back in Jan but had not yet registered an account here on Spotlight. In light of the pending primary I am reviewing all older commentary re SK budgetary woes, as well as current information from myriad sources. I sincerely hope other clear thinking citizen/taxpayers are going thru similar exercises in whatever fashion works best for them. I believe we’ll be far better served by a School Comm with Brosseau, Brady & Hansen supporting incumbent Macinanti, and hope for a strong turnout of voters Tue to get these 3 on the Nov ballot.
    I have read & admired your blogs here: you are always clear and concise, providing facts and figures to support compelling arguments and logic. I especially appreciate the recaps of our Bldg Comm’s meetings. They are scary to say the least. I”m glad you’ve thrown your hat in the ring for a Council seat in Nov’s general election. I, and other grateful SK voters,  will be in full support of your candidacy.


  4. My apologies Alex, my recent comment re SC Bldg Comm mtg notes was referring to  Jason Ralph’s posts. Regardless of that oversight on my part, I stand by all that I wrote relative to your January blog. Best regards, Kevin Sullivan 


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