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SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — South Kingstown residents will head to the polls next week to decide whether to approve the town’s school fund as is or cut it by $1.5 million.

The current school fund sits at $55.9 million. Slashing the school fund down to $54.4 million would be beneficial to taxpayers, according to Dorald Beasley, who spearheaded the effort.

“It would be giving taxpayers a break, and they need one,” Beasley said, adding that the town’s expenses are “out of control.”

But those who oppose cutting the school fund believe it would have catastrophic consequences.

In a letter to parents, South Kingstown Superintendent Mark Prince said the school fund reduction would mean more than 20 teachers would be laid off, music and theater programs would be canceled and fall sports at the high school and middle school would be cut.

“There’s no more Friday Night Lights if this goes through,” parent Ania Zielinski said. “The Class of 2023 is the COVID class. They lived through COVID. Sports, music, arts …. all of that got them through it.”

Michael Marran, vice president of the South Kingstown Town Council, tells 12 News dozens of meetings have been held regarding the school fund, which is level-funded and has already been unanimously approved by councilors.

“What we’re trying to do is carefully and thoughtfully reduce total expenditures for the town, but in a way that doesn’t adversely impact education,” he said. “You don’t take a $56 million operation and say, ‘We’re going to cut $1.5 milllion.’”

But Beasley disagrees.

While school enrollment has declined in South Kingstown over the past several years, the budget has remain the same.

Beasley believes that needs to change to reflect the number of students.

“We’ve done this now for 20 years,” he said. “We need a break.”

Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the South Kingstown Recreation Center.

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