Eugene Quinn for East Greenwich Schools


At Norman's Restaurant

Why I serve:

  • East Greenwich has long enjoyed a reputation for good government and excellent schools. I consider it a privilege to have a role in continuing that tradition.
  • As a 45-year resident, I have paid several hundred thousand dollars in property taxes. I'm proud of what my taxes helped build, and I want to see that investment preserved.
  • I support an evidence-based, data-driven approach to policy making across local government that emphasizes careful analysis and a long term perspective.

Analysis and opinions are my own and do not reflect positions of the East Greenwich School Committee in any way


expense boxplot

Proposed Cuts to the Governor's Recommended State Education Aid for East Greenwich

With the FY2023 East Greenwich budget process nearly completed, the Finance Committee of the RI House of Representatives proposed a last minute revision to the Governer's Recommended Education Aid package that adds $17 million to the aid governed by the funding formula but reduces East Greenwich's share by approximately $729,000.

The chart at the right shows the percentage change over the FY2022 formula aid by district for the Governer's Recommended Aid.

The supporting documentation suggests that while the formula aid was computed in accordance with Rhode Island law and in the same manner as in previous years, the end result was deemed unacceptable because the majority of districts received less formula aid than they did in FY2022 (significantly less in some cases), and two districts generally perceived to be the wealthiest received significant increases (Barrington 23%, East Greenwich 20%).

The justification for rejecting the original recommendations was that the results were not consistent with the intent of RIGL-16-7.2-4 which creates an expectation that communities able to generate enough revenue to support their local public schools should do so.

For FY2023, formula aid is a percentage of $11,050 times the number of enrolled students, plus an additional $4,420 for each student qualifying for free or reduced lunch support. So the formula aid is quite sensitive to changes in enrollment, and one of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic was a drop in enrollment in most districts, often by hundreds of students. This was not evenly spread across districts.

By law the percentage is computed as the 'quadratic mean' of two percentages: The percent of students in grades PK through 6 qualifying for free or reduced lunch support (PK-6%), and the 'State Share Ratio' (SSRC) which is a composite of assessed property value per student and median family income relative to the state median.

The quadratic mean is almost the same as the arithmetic mean, but it is shifted slightly towards the larger of the two percentages.

East Greenwich's percentage nearly doubled (from 9% to 18%) between FY2018 and FY2023 , which is the main reason our aid has been increasing.

Apparently the mechanism used to adjust the results was to fall back to the FY2022 SSRC, which wipes out some of the gains for East Greenwich.

Fortunately the House Finance Committee proposal is not the final word, so we will have to wait and see.

expense boxplot

Historical Record of Expense Budget Variance

The Rhode Island Department of Education maintains very detailed financial data for every school district. The Uniform Chart of Accounts a method of accounting that provides transparency, uniformity, accountability, and comparability of financial information for all schools and districts.

The Statewide Consolidated Financial Databases consists of three files for each year that contain revenue, expense, and capital/debt service information.

In the expense database, budget and actual values are available for the school years 2010-2011 through 2019-2020. This data is comprised of approximately 2.9 million records.

I used this data to extract the total budgeted expense minus total actual expense for each year for all districts, and produced boxplots by district.

The results show that the East Greenwich School Department has a good track record when it comes to budgeting expenses:

  • The variance tends to be confined to a relatively short interval compared to most districts.
  • The box is roughly centered at zero, meaning that we do not systematically over- or under-budget expenses.
  • There are no outliers.

Background Information for Fund Balance Discussion

This is supporting documentation for the School Department's response to the question 'Why does the school department need a $3 million fund balance?' posed by the Town Manager. The official response was written by the Superintendent, and included this information in an attachment.

The Finance Subcommittee of the East Greenwich School Committee is in the process of updating its fund balance policy. Questions that have arisen include:

  • What is the purpose of fund balance?
  • What is the optimal size of the fund balance, given the defined purpose?
  • How much fund balance do other school districts have, and how do they use it?
  • What is the relationship between the town and school fund balances?

My position on COVID-19 mitigation policies

  • 1. I support the Superintendent's recommendation to make face masks optional, provided a satisfactory solution can be found for every individual who is immunocompromised or otherwise at high risk.
  • 2. The relative risks of infection and social-emotional impact need to be considered.
  • 3. I believe our policies should reflect the mainstream consensus of Public Health, Medical, Mental Health, and Educational professionals.
  • 4. The future behavior of the virus cannot be predicted with any certainty. Policies should have enough flexibility to adapt quickly, with the goal of keeping schools open and keeping students and staff safe.

East Greenwich has the ninth highest FY2022 residential property tax rate. Why?

    There are three primary reasons:
  • 1. In terms of assessed property value per resident, East Greenwich is not particularly wealthy, ranking 11th. Other towns have a considerably larger tax base per capita.
  • 2. State education aid varies greatly by town. If every town had to raise their FY2022 state education aid through residential property taxes, East Greenwich's adjusted tax rate would rank 19th
  • 3. With 0.20 public school students per capita compared to the state average of 0.12, East Greenwich has more students enrolled in public schools per capita than any other community except Barrington.

East Greenwich Tax Rates: A Century of History

  • The residential tax rate is nearly the same as it was 100 years ago.
  • The black lines represent revaluations, which are designed to realign assessed and market values.
  • Almost all (90%) of the variability in the tax rate is caused by the real estate market and revaluation cycles.
  • Contrary to the narrative of unsustainable tax growth that we have seen, the lack of a significant trend (up or down) in the tax rate means that the amount of taxes collected (the levy) and the size of the tax base have grown at the same rate over the last century. I interpret this as evidence that our town is well-managed, and has been for a long time.