COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) — The community came out in full force Wednesday to voice their concerns about the layoff notices being sent to more than 350 teachers, plus possible cuts to athletics and after-school activities at Coventry Public Schools.
The proposed budget for next year was recently voted down by taxpayers, meaning the district is forced to cut $2 million from the school budget. Due to the new budget restraints, the district could be forced to drastically reduce or eliminate altogether school athletic programs, after-school activities and clubs.
The majority of those who attended the meeting said they were unaware of the consequences of voting the budget down. Some even said they didn’t even know the vote was happening.
“If they had known and they voted, they would have voted yes,” resident Kimberly Shockley said as she addressed the town council.
According to the Board of Canvassers, approximately 8% of voters in Coventry weighed in on this year’s budget. There are 26,322 registered voters in Coventry. Since only 8% voted, 761 approved the budget and 1,449 rejected it.
“We wanted this budget to pass. It was the voters that turned it down, we’re not the enemy here,” Council President Kerry McGee said to the crowd.
Parents and students took turns speaking about the importance of teachers and after-school programs.
Though many residents seemed in favor of the proposed budget, town councilors said they could not put it back on the table as is. This is because the town charter says once an item is voted down they can only put up an amended version.
“It’s mandated by the town charter, that we come back with a different, modified budget from what is not passed on the first attempt,” Town Solicitor Nicholas Gorham said.
Residents who could not attend Wednesday’s meeting have another chance to voice their opinions about it at the Coventry School Committee meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. inside the auditorium at Coventry High School.
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.