School Committee Continues 2025 Budget Discussion

by | Mar 7, 2024

By Jared Paolino

People or schools. That’s what Superintendent Brian Ricca said next year’s education budget will come down to at Tuesday’s meeting of the East Greenwich School Committee.

After the panel quickly and unanimously approved the lease of “auto scrubbers” to clean building floors, administration officials presented their proposed FY25 budgets.

The School Committee will meet again to vote on a final budget, which will then be taken to the Town Council.

Student Services

Neil Marcaccio, director of student services, began by saying that his office is about “more than just special education. Every student is touched by it.”

He referred to East Greenwich Public Schools’ “All Means All” Strategic Plan as the guiding principle for his work. “It’s something that I am reflecting upon most days, all day long,” Marcaccio said. “Are my actions or the actions of Student Services properly reflective of that ‘All Means All’ driver in our strategic plan?

Marcaccio proposed an FY25 budget of $2.9 million – up from $2.7 million in FY24. He attributed the increase to more out-of-district placements, new contracted employees including 1:1 nurses and behavioral staff, and inflation.

He emphasized the importance of various initiatives falling under the Student Services budget, including the Unified program, life skills training, transitions programming for graduating students, and a partnership with Thrive Community Health to support mental health in schools.

One major priority for the upcoming year, Marcaccio said, would be dealing with the ongoing issue of a “revolving door” of employees.


“We’re not a big district, but we have a lot of space under our roof: half a million square feet, 2,500 students, and about 450 staff,” said Bob Wilmarth, director of facilities.

“With that comes six of everything, all of which are at a point where something can fail and cause catastrophic damage,” Wilmarth added, referring to the critical equipment and infrastructure that falls under his purview.

His proposed FY25 facilities budget increased to $2.5 million from $1.8 million this year. The majority of the increase is due to capital expenditures. Some of the increase is also attributable to certain services – such as $85,000 for rubbish removal – being brought back into the school budget after being managed by the town for several years.

With a massive $150 million plan to improve local schools, including through new construction and major reconstruction, in the offing, Wilmarth said the 2025 budget requests are for the buildings that aren’t going anywhere.

“We’re not going to dedicate resources to the schools that are going offline,” Wilmarth said. “We’re going to focus our attention on the schools that will remain on Meadowbrook, Cole, and the high school.” (The school construction plan calls for a new building at Frenchtown, a nearly total rebuild of Hanaford and the decommissioning of Eldredge as a school.)


As usual, personnel is the largest part of the budget, coming in around $40 million in this initial proposal. According to Maggie Baker, director of administration and finance, a small increase from last year is attributable to increased transportation costs, including to meet existing contractual obligations and to meet new busing needs through expanded service.

School Committee Vice Chair Nicole Bucka, referring to a recent audit that indicated a need for greater mental health staff in East Greenwich schools, questioned why proposed new positions in the budget included an extra guidance counselor at Cole, rather than a social worker or school psychologist.

“My goal is to say we funded – with taxpayer dollars – an audit, and I’m trying to make sure that we use the audit findings to drive decision making to some degree.” Bucka said.

Superintendent Ricca responded to broader concerns about staffing. “The questions we will be answering as a leadership team are people or building. The bottom line is that is what this current budget will come down to.” 

Ricca referred to previous years when money had to be taken out of the facilities budget after the overall allocation from the town was less than expected, in order to prevent “harming teaching and learning.”

School Committee Chair Alyson Powell pushed back, saying that aging facilities ultimately “will have an impact and back on teaching and learning.” 

Vice Chair Bucka suggested that, in any case, the district may have to look internally and potentially make “hard decisions” when it comes to personnel.


Christoper Scheib, Interim Director of Technology, started by saying it had been a tough year. Schieb took over the position after former director Steven Arnoff passed away last November.

Scheib detailed the department’s success replacing the district’s virtual computing infrastructure, ongoing efforts to maintain and replace student Chromebooks, and the launch of the district’s new website – for which Scheib had to manually migrate nearly all of the data over from the previous site. He said it “was a pretty tedious process.” 

Members of the School Committee and the administration enthusiastically thanked Scheib for his hard work. Vice Chair Bucka also questioned Scheib about the continued provision of a Chromebook device to every student, referring to the potential harms of excessive screen time and the potential benefits of physical note-taking. 

Scheib suggested that more data should be collected on how the devices are used by each grade level in every building before any decision to roll back the 1:1 device policy is considered. 

It was also noted that the Rhode Island Department of Education has said students should take state assessments on devices moving forward. 

Superintendent Ricca closed the meeting with a glowing endorsement of his team, specifically acknowledging Scheib as well as Facilities Director Wilmarth for being “stewards” of the infrastructure and technology that serve students and educators. 

The School Committee’s next meeting is Tuesday, March 19. 

Jared Paolino is a freelance journalist; he lives in East Greenwich.

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