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Coventry officials encourage higher turnout for second budget vote

West Bay
Coventry officials encourage higher turnout for do-over budget vote

COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) — Hundreds of people packed the Coventry School Committee meeting Thursday night to hear how a possible $2 million budget cut could affect the town’s schools.

The proposed budget for next year was recently voted down by taxpayers. In turn, the district has sent layoff notices to 380 Coventry teachers and has considered making drastic cuts to athletics and after-school programs. The Coventry School Committee announced that a level-funded budget would mean a $110,000 reduction in high school athletics, a $159,000 cut in middle and high school extracurricular activities, and a similar cut of $68,000 at the elementary school level for extracurricular activities.

“It sickens me that our school might not have the extracurricular activities that are the reason some kids get out of bed in the morning,” one student said at Thursday’s meeting.

Superintendent Craig Levis said the Coventry School Committee has approved for 380 teachers to receive layoff notices by the state’s June 1 deadline as the district figures out what comes next. ​​​​​​

“How do we get this community to understand this is not a joke? This is not a threat,” Superintendent Craig Levis said to the crowd.

According to the Board of Canvassers, approximately 8% of voters in Coventry weighed in on this year’s budget, which was overwhelmingly rejected. At a Coventry Town Council meeting Wednesday night, many residents said they were unaware of the consequences of voting the budget down. Some even said they didn’t even know the vote was happening.

“There is something I learned in the military it’s no slack. You don’t make excuses. You take ownership and move forward,” Coventry School Committee member Lucas Murray said.

The Coventry Town Council will meet again to adopt a new budget Tuesday night. Once they have a new budget, it will head to a referendum sometime in mid-June.

Levis and the school committee said they stand by the old budget and want it to be voted on again. They also want more than 8% of the town’s voters to weigh in.

“We are winning this,” Coventry Teachers’ Alliance President Kelly Erinakes said Thursday night. “Remember that when we leave this building.”

This story has been updated to clarify 380 Coventry teachers have received layoff notices, but they are not necessarily being laid off. That decision will be made after Coventry residents vote on a new budget June 13. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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