COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) — Registered voters in Coventry have a couple weeks to decide whether to accept a newly-proposed budget after the first budget was rejected in mid-May.
At a meeting Tuesday night, the Coventry Town Council adopted a new budget that will now head to a referendum. The budget includes a $150,000 cut in appropriations for the town and a $350,000 cut to its schools.
“I think it’s positive,” Superintendent Craig Levis said. “I’m cautiously optimistic, but we still have to get the voters out there.”
The budget initially proposed for next year was recently voted down by taxpayers, causing the district to send layoff notices to 380 teachers and consider making drastic cuts to athletics and after-school programs.
According to the Board of Canvassers, approximately 8% of voters in Coventry weighed in on the first budget, which was rejected. At a Coventry Town Council meeting last week, 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.
Superintendent Levis said even if the new budget is approved by voters, there will still be cuts. But, Levis said the cuts won’t be nearly as drastic as they would be if the budget is level funded.
“It will have much less impact. I think and hope we would be able to call back most of our teachers,” Levis said.
Interim Town Manager Edward Warzycha said he and the town council believe the new budget is fair.
“It’s a big increase from last year, but it’s something we don’t have an option on. We have to do it,” he explained.
If the new budget is approved, residents would see a 2.92% tax increase. Warzycha said for the average home in town, which is worth about $217,000, that would result in a tax increase of $160 a year.
The newly-adopted budget also includes the creation of a revolving capital improvement fund, which would be $200,000. Warzycha said the plan would be to allocate that money to the school department next year.
“Start doing the things that we need to, to invest in the town and move the town forward,” Warzycha said.
An all-day referendum is now tentatively scheduled for June 13. It will be the last chance for the town’s 27,000 registered voters to either accept or reject the proposed budget, totaling $108 million.
If the budget fails, Warzycha said next year’s budget would be level-funded, meaning the school department might not be able to rescind every layoff notice. The superintendent said the department will also have to institute the proposed cuts to athletics programs and extracurricular activities.
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.