Voters again reject Chariho budget
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – In a second referendum on the proposed Chariho Regional School District, voters once again rejected the 2023 spending plan. The results of the May 5 vote followed the same pattern evident in the first referendum on April 5, with Charlestown voters’ support outweighed by voters in the two other Chariho towns.
In Charlestown, 380 residents voted in favor of the budget and 170 voted against it. In Hopkinton, there were 262 votes in favor and 518 opposed, and in Richmond, 349 in favor and 474 opposed.
After the first budget defeat, the School Committee made $543,308 in additional cuts. The proposed $55.2 million budget is a 1.9% increase over the current budget. The three towns, whose contributions to the school district are determined by enrollment, would all have seen increases: 2% for Richmond, and 1% for Hopkinton with Charlestown seeing the largest increase, 2.7%.
This second budget defeat leaves the School Committee with two choices: level-fund the budget or make more cuts and submit the budget to a third and final referendum in June. If a new budget has not been approved by July 1, the school district will continue to operate with the current budget.
Superintendent of Schools Gina Picard said that while the goal of the budgeting process has been to avoid cuts to staff, those cuts might now have to be made in order to present the level-funded budget that voters are demanding.
“I think the majority of voters that are coming out, I think that’s what they’re looking for,” she said. “…46% voted yes, right, so, when you say majority, it’s close, but it just wasn’t enough.”
Despite concerns voiced by parents of children in the four elementary schools that budget cuts will lead to larger class sizes, Picard said that scenario was now more likely.
“We’ll tighten the belts and class size in elementary will get a little bit higher than we really prefer,” she said. “…We’re going to review everything. Right now, we definitely know that there’ll be impacts to staffing.”
The one possible bright spot is the anticipated restoration of state transportation aid to the regional school districts, which, if it is allocated, will mean more than $500,000 for Chariho. Picard said she hoped the district would receive the aid but she noted that it was not a certainty.
“We created a plan to be ready if it was a no, and then honestly, if the transportation funding comes through, that will be something that provides us a better outlook. It’s an unwritten check, so we don’t have it in hand. You can’t count on that.”
The School Committee will discuss further budget reductions at the May 10 meeting. Picard said residents who have questions about the budget are welcome to contact her directly at: 401 364-7575 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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