Officials offer $800,000 increase to Barrington school budget

How many cuts will be spared by the $800,000? Officials won't say

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The Barrington Committee on Appropriations has offered a compromise with school officials.

The group that first voted to eliminate the $1.2 million increase school officials requested, recently voted to recommend an $800,000 increase instead. The change was made during a meeting on Tuesday night, May 16.

So, how will that change impact the list of cuts school officials made public earlier this month?

Barrington Superintendent of Schools Michael Messore said he will not "establish a list of priorities," meaning that officials will not be releasing a new list of what could be saved by the $800,000 increase.

"Eight hundred thousand will not bring it all back," Mr. Messore said. 

Earlier this month, the superintendent of Barrington schools said the elimination of the $1.2 million requested increase would result in the loss of more than a dozen teaching positions, about a half-dozen classes, and the elimination of all middle school sports programs, and four high school sports teams — wrestling, gymnastics and boys' and girls' hockey teams.

Mr. Messore said going through the list of programs and positions and making cuts was one of the most difficult things he has had to do in all his years working for the Barrington School Department.

Officials identified the elimination of 16.5 staff positions. 

Included among the cuts were positions at various grade levels, positions in art, music and library, world languages at the high school, the middle school and high school consumer science classes, an instructional coach, and a guidance counselor position and a special education position at Hampden Meadows School.

At the high school, the world languages department will be impacted. Chinese will be eliminated, and Latin and Spanish programs will be reduced, said Mr. Messore. The entire middle school sports program, which includes basketball, wrestling, cross country and other sports, will be eliminated. And at the high school, students will no longer be able to compete on school teams for wrestling, gymnastics and boys' and girls' hockey.

The list of cuts resulted in a larger-than-usual turnout at the annual budget hearing on Wednesday, May 10. Students-athletes, parents, coaches and others attended the hearing and pleaded with officials to re-instated the $1.2 million increase. 

The committee on appropriations met on Tuesday, May 16, and chairman Geoff Grove made a motion to recommend an $800,000 increase for the schools. The motion passed 3-2. 

Appropriations member Chad Mollica voted against the motion, and during a recent interview, offered his reasoning.

"Our (initial) analysis was to level-fund the school budget," said Mr. Mollica. "Nothing has happened to change my mind."

Appropriations members also questioned school officials about a projected surplus to the current budget. School officials acknowledged that a $400,000 surplus is expected, although they cautioned that the current budget is not finished until the end of June.

Mr. Mollica said he was a bit surprised when school officials first released a list of cuts after the committee on appropriations recommended no increase for the schools.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.