Put our money where the kids are! That’s the refrain we hear from parents, taxpayers and our Community Budget Advisors. So that’s what we’ve done.

Last year, RISD added 79 new classroom teachers, 41 in elementary, 11 in secondary and eight in special education. This year, we added 42 more positions, 34 in secondary and eight in special ed. That’s a total of 121 teachers in the classroom. Not aides or secretaries or, heaven forbid, administrators.

By adding these teachers, we’ve made a major commitment to reduce class size. These are the current district averages:

Pre-K – 19.6

K – 18.6

1 – 18.1

2 – 18.3

3 – 18.7

4 – 18.7

5 – 21.0

6 – 21.9

Secondary – 22-30

The State mandates maximum class sizes of 22 students to one teacher for kindergarten through 4th grade. As recently as 1995, we asked the State to waive this requirement for 175 classes that contained more than the 22-1 ratio.

This year we hope to make no waiver requests!

In August we adopted an Operating Fund Budget of $194,501,625 for the 1997-98 school year. Here’s a funcional breakout of expenses:

Instruction – 57 percent

Instructional administration – 1.6 percent

School leadership – 7.7 percent

Student support services – 7.6 percent

Subtotal of funds going directly to students – 73.9 percent

General administration – 3.5 percent

Plant, D/P and community service – 13.4 percent

Debt administration – 2.2 percent

Construction services – 1.9 percent

Recapture (Robin Hood) – 5.1 percent

This budget is $14,801,921 over the 96-97 budget of $179,699,704. The major increases include:

Recapture (Robin Hood) – $5.2 million

Teacher raises and adjustments – $5.5 million

Additional teachers – $3.3 million

Priority school support – $1.0 million

But due to rising property values, revenue is keeping pace. Our revenue sources include:

Taxes – 89.3 percent

Local fees and charges – 2.7 percent

State – 8.0 percent

Federal – 0.0 percent

So what about our taxes? In September, the trustees voted to maintain the tax rate at $1.5968 per $100 value. We also continued the 15 percent homestead exemption, even though the State punishes us mightily for this in recapture.

On Aug. 9, voters approved an additional $10,000 homestead exemption on a single family residence. That means taxes decreased by $135.84 on a $100,000 home.

In addition, we happily passed a debt service tax increase of only 3.02 cents, which is nearly a half cent lower than we promised in last September’s bond election!

Wise and prudent management, plus a surging economy, help keep RISD students from suffering due to Robin Hood. Next year, we estimate recapture will top $14 million, so we set aside $4.7 million in anticipation.

In December, we’ll discuss exciting improvements in curriculum and instruction.