We have just recently marked the halfway point of the school year and we are already well into the planning for the 2024-2025 school year. Our budget work for the 2024-2025 school year began in the fall. Many might be surprised to learn how early we start our budget work for the next school year, and how much of next year’s school budget is required to be determined early in the current school year, while so much important information is still unknown at the time.
On January 22, I presented the proposed school budget for 2024-2025 to the Cranston School Committee and an audience of City Council members, residents and members of our school community and administration. As part of my presentation, I explained that due to city charter requirements, we must have our balanced budget proposal to the mayor by March 1. The process starts in November to identify the needs we have for the following fiscal year. This causes us to make many assumptions and predictions. By December we only have about three months of budget experience to use in preparing for the following fiscal year, and much can change between now and June, when the final budget is adopted.
Our budget is built based on many variables such as the needs of the school district, any new regulatory demands, student population and need, staffing needs, previous budget experience, collective bargaining agreement impacts, transportation and utility costs. Once the decisions are made about what is needed to provide financial support for the next year, we propose our budget to the school committee.
The school committee can amend or change any part of the proposal. Once it is vetted, and modified if necessary, the school committee approves it and forwards it to the city administration. The city administration then considers our funding request. The mayor, along with his administration, proposes a budget to the city council by April 1. The city council can make modifications to the mayor’s city budget. The city council must have a budget in place by May 15. Final determinations and passing of an approved budget must be done by June 30 of each year.
At a time when inflation is at an all-time high, and costs are rising every day, we have managed to keep our increase minimal, and we are asking for just a 1.42% increase in our operating budget. We are asking for a local appropriation increase of approximately 2.5% or $2,477,012. Over the past few years since the pandemic we have been able to use federal ESSER money to cover some of our increased expenses. However, this money will no longer be available to us after June 2024. Therefore, we need to cover all costs out of our operating budget and existing grants.
I encourage every member of the Cranston community to examine and understand the proposed school budget. Our school budget drives academic excellence, innovation, and growth. It is the financial backbone that empowers us to provide a nurturing and enriching environment for our students, prepares our graduates for their future careers and also provides for a positive work environment for our staff.
We are the second largest school population in the state, and our population remains steady while others around us are seeing a decline. As we have looked back over our past years’ budgets, we have seen an increase and a change in the needs of our students and their families. As an example, our Multi-Language Learner population has increased 12% over the past two years, with a 27% increase in students who are new to the country. This requires us to have additional staffing in order to be compliant with state regulations, and most importantly, to provide high-quality instruction for all of our students.
I often say that we are in the people business, and that we need people to conduct our business. Our proposed budget reflects our commitment to fostering a learning environment that empowers every student to thrive, and allows us to remain a competitive employer in the state of Rhode Island. It supports resources that are vital to a high quality education, such as experienced educators, cutting-edge technology, and programs that enhance our students’ educational experience. People are moving to Cranston because of our award-winning, 21st century schools, because of the outstanding educational opportunities that they receive here, and for that we are proud. It is essential that you, our community, support your public schools and support the comprehensive, 21st century education that your children need and deserve.
We are educating the future of our city, our state, our nation, and we cannot provide an exceptional education without a budget to support it.
Cranston Public Schools