City offers $1.75 million in additional funding to schools

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Mayor Joseph J. Solomon announced in a press release today that, following a meeting last Monday with the School Department relative to its FY19 budget, he has written to School Committee Chairwoman Bethany Furtado with an offer to increase the School Department budget by an additional $1.75M.

He proposes that the City absorb a portion of the schools’ debt service to address the budgetary gap left after the RI Department of Education’s (RIDE) recent denial of the School Department’s request for a variety of waivers. 

The School Department’s original budget request was for an additional $8.1M over the FY18 approved budgetary amount. This would have exceeded the amount of tax dollars that the City could obtain through the maximum property tax levy increase governed by state law.

Nevertheless, during municipal budget hearings, the School Department remained insistent that it could not reduce the funding request to a more manageable amount. The City Council ultimately authorized an increase of $1.5M in additional local aid for FY19.

Subsequent to that, the School Department made a number of budgetary cuts, including the decimation of the RI Mentoring allocation of $102,000 in an attempt to balance its budget. The cuts also included the elimination of 15 custodian positions, presently filled, at a cost of $1M, as well as the elimination of two administration positions, which have been vacant, with salaries in excess of $100,000, at a savings of $250,000.

They also requested of RIDE a number of waivers, which included:

  • To charge a fee for student bus transportation
  • To charge a fee for middle and high school sports
  • To eliminate payments to out-of-district providers of student pathway programs
  • To eliminate payments to charter schools, to eliminate payments for out-of-district transportation to eliminate school bus monitors on all school buses, and
  • To transfer all School Department related debt service costs to the City of Warwick

Solomon said that he recognizes that the School Department and School Committee share his frustration about the number and cost of so-called “unfunded state mandates.”  However, “arguing about the problem in a rhetorical context will not achieve a sustainable and fiscally-sound solution to the problem of School Department funding for FY 2019,” Solomon wrote.

Coupled with the $1.5M allocated by the City Council, the additional $1.75M will provide the School Department with over 40 percent of their requested increased funding, Solomon said, and could fully fund:

  • Restoration of the cuts to the RI Mentoring Partnership program
  • Student bus transportation
  • Middle and high school sports
  • Payments to out-of-district providers of student pathway programs
  • Payments to charter schools, payments for out-of-district transportation, and
  • Retention of school bus monitors on all school buses

Solomon said the funds would come from the $5M paving line item approved as part of the FY2019 budget. Restructuring of divisions and cost savings within each department will help to recoup at least a portion of this funding for paving, he said.

Solomon also noted that in the School Department budget, Professional Management and Administrators are to be paid $4.62 million to 42 full-time positions at an average rate of $110,152.81. Only one position has been reduced in salary.

Solomon said that, given the costs associated with the 42 professional personnel of the School Department, additional cost savings could be realized through the restructuring of the Administrative Division, and suggested the savings be put back into the custodial and clerical positions, which contribute to the betterment of the students of the district and facilities.

“I look forward to a constructive public discussion of my proposal to resolve this budget problem and to move forward with the educational mission of the School Department to provide a high-quality learning and human development opportunities for its students,” he said.

The Beacon will update this story in its print and online editions tomorrow with response from school administration.

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CrickeeRaven

"Solomon said the funds would come from the $5M paving line item approved as part of the FY2019 budget."

This sets a bad precedent, where the council set aside money for road repairs, only for acting Mayor Solomon to take some of it out again for the school budget. He basically just used the $5 million asphalt budget [up from $1 million in FY18] as a slush fund to keep the money away from the school department for a few weeks.

Instead of playing these games with school funding, the council could have just approved another $1.75 million in the beginning and avoided the needless drama of whether or not they would sufficiently fund the school department.

Monday, August 6
Justanidiot

They are doing their best to make the teacher's feel the wrath of the population.

Monday, August 6
richardcorrente

I agree with CrickeeRaven that this decision on the part of acting Mayor Solomon sets "a bad precident". The budget was set by the School Committee (SC) at $163Million+-. They overspent it. Then they got $1.7Million more. When any department overspends their budget they should NOT be rewarded. They should be penalized. When the School Department refuses to show the City Council exactly where they spend their money, they should never BE GIVEN ANOTHER DIME, UNTIL THEY DO.

Where I disagree with CrickeeRaven is in giving the School Committee (or any other department) $1.7Million in advance with no certainty as to how they will spend it. Since 2009 the SC has received over A BILLION AND A HALF DOLLARS. That money was supposed to go for teachers salaries, present and future. It was supposed to go for maintaining the school buildings. These are part of the mission statement of the SC. With all the school closings and teacher layoffs the SC should have a healthy surplus. They don't. Where did the money go. They won't say.

Warwick NEEDS a Home Rule Charter. That will allow the City Council to share in the responsibility of money spent by our School Department. It will also make for greater transparency, a win-win for everyone.

Happy August everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Tuesday, August 7
Justanidiot

danks youse master mayer, i hads knows ideer that the teachers had not been paid since 2009. those greedy administrators wer just pocketing that billions and billions uf dollars, putting in golden crappers in der privates spas. its an out rage. wese needs to erect master mayer again to stop all this theft

Tuesday, August 7
CrickeeRaven

Justanidiot, Solomon is just trying to save face here: The city is facing a costly lawsuit if he does nothing, so he's trying to sound strong by telling the school department what it can do with its budget -- "We're paying $1.75 million of your debt, now you can reinstate sports and buses, and you should think about cutting administrators."

He doesn't have the legal right to do that, but he's getting around it by paying the debt instead of just adding $1.75 million to the school contribution.

And his statement that the city is paying 40 percent of what the school department requested is not going to help him. He's basically admitting that the city isn't paying the other 60%.

So, I'm not sure they've thought this cunning plan all the way through.

Tuesday, August 7
CrickeeRaven

Once again, the make-believe mayor tries to rewrite history and only succeeds in humiliating himself:

"They overspent it."

This is false. The school committee approved a budget asking for $8.1 million, $5 million of which is legally-required salary and benefit payments to teachers. There was no "overspending."

"When the School Department refuses to show the City Council exactly where they spend their money..."

This never happened. The school committee presented its budget to the city council and answered all their questions about it. Also, the school department is audited every year by the same independent firm that reviews the city's books, so there is no excuse for the city council not knowing how the school budget works.

"$1.7Million in advance with no certainty as to how they will spend it."

This is not at all what is happening. Solomon is offering to pay $1.75 in bond payments for the school department, freeing up that amount -- which is already in the school budget. And the city is legally prohibited from determining how that money is spent.

" That money was supposed to go for teachers salaries, present and future. It was supposed to go for maintaining the school buildings."

Published budget documents and annual audits show where school funding went -- including paying for teacher salaries, benefits, and pensions, and school repairs and maintenance. The make-believe mayor's failure to do basic research is a defect in his behavior, not the school department's.

"Warwick NEEDS a Home Rule Charter."

Warwick has a Legislative Charter, which is exactly the same as a Home Rule Charter except in name. And in cities where a school committee is appointed [by the mayor], it still puts together its own budget before presenting it to the city council for review.

So, try as he might, the make-believe mayor did not "agree" with the previous comments. He attempted to twist someone else's words to fit his own incorrect and delusional version of events.

He failed, yet again, just as his second campaign will overwhelmingly fail on Sept. 12.

Tuesday, August 7
Thecaptain

And there were a couple of people who stood up at the council budget hearings and stated that the 5 million in paving was a slush fund and that the city would never be able to do it. Guess the crystal ball was correct again.

Tuesday, August 7
richardcorrente

Dear CrickeeRaven,

I am agreeing with you. That's twice in a row.

The comment you made starting with your response to Justanidiot, was spot on. Solomon set a bad precedent that will hurt him in future negotiations with all departments. His comment, "You should think about cutting administrators" is not going to be considered for one second. And your comment of "I'm not sure they've thought this cunning plan all the way through." will be proven again and again, and I will credit you for it when that happens.

As to the difference between a Home Rule Charter and a Legislative Charter, it is a matter of degree. A Home Rule Charter gives the City Council the last word. A Legislative charter doesn't. Today, the City Council can't even legally say "Spend it wisely" once they give the School Department more than HALF of all tax revenue. It would be considered influencing the School Committee. The School Committee has too much power. Plain and simple. I believe that it should be shared with the people elected to watch taxpayers dollars, the City Council. Don't you?

Happy August everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Tuesday, August 7
CrickeeRaven

Instead of saying he agrees with others before twisting their words, the make-believe mayor should practice actually telling the truth.

"A Home Rule Charter gives the City Council the last word. A Legislative charter doesn't."

This is false. Under Warwick's charter, the city council can override the mayor's veto of the budget -- in other words, the council has the last word. This is why Mayor Avedisian did not veto the FY18 budget, for example -- he wrote a letter to the council saying he knew it would be overturned.

So, again, try as he might to pathetically ingratiate himself with other commenters, the make-believe mayor fails to do anything but humiliate himself with his comments.

Tuesday, August 7
Thecaptain

Rick,

Why are you still being silent about your tax lien and foreclosure of your office space at 1050 Main St. in East G. ? Silent again, cant answer any of the Captains questions.

Tuesday, August 7
CrickeeRaven

Interesting observation, Thecaptain. It's almost as if -- contrary to their protests that this budget was dropped on them -- the council could have predicted and avoided these problems with the budget they approved.

I hope, for everyone's sake, that this city council gets its collective act together and makes some better decisions than just lurching from one mess to the next.

Tuesday, August 7
Thecaptain

By the way, the fake mayor, Mayor Dumbness, suffers another loss in civil court:

3SC-2016-01563 | Richard Corrente v. Sharon Stone

His case as the plaintiff in small claims was dismissed. I think that makes it 0 -16 !

AHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAH

Tuesday, August 7
WwkVoter

Thanks Rob just went to your court connect link and looked that up - "Case Dismissed"... lets hope this "case" is "dismissed" on Sept 12

Wednesday, August 8
Thecaptain

LOL

Wednesday, August 8