Coventry school budget on hold until voters decide

Following a meeting Tuesday night that brought out hundreds of people and got heated at times, Wednesday's Coventry School Committee meeting was small, but the message was much more clear.

Right now, the district is in a holding pattern for the next month until the town can schedule a referendum in which voters will decide whether to increase taxes by four percent.

School Committee Chair Katherine Patenaude told NBC 10 the increase in taxes would make up more than $1 million of the budget deficit, but there would still be a shortfall of more than $500,000. She said she was hopeful voters would support the referendum.

"I felt so encouraged that so many people did come out and support schools because it will be devastating to our school system if we have to make the cuts that are on the table," Patenaude said.

Beth Sharkey's daughter Madison will be a senior in the fall and Sharkey said hearing about the cuts was a concern.

"I think my first reaction was we're going to be left with buildings and kids and teachers and nothing else," Sharkey said.

Not only would social events and sports disappear, Sharkey said, but the college application process would be at risk.

For Candase Patenaude, whose children came through the Coventry school system and whose youngest grandson is now a senior, it's a major worry.

"My heart aches for them because I know how important education is," Patenaude said.

The school committee told NBC 10 that the town tax increase, if approved by voters, would not affect seniors on fixed income who are disabled, because their taxes are frozen.

The referendum will likely take place in early July.