Schools present audit to City Council on Monday

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Monday will mark a significant next chapter in the ongoing budgetary crisis being experienced by the Warwick School Department, as they will present to the City Council findings of their programmatic audit finalized in August that concluded the schools needed an additional $4 million from the city to fulfill their obligations to provide an education in line with the state’s Basic Education Plan (BEP).

Robert Hicks, a former superintendent of three different districts in Rhode Island, will present the report to the council as he did to the Warwick School Committee last month. However, Hicks is aware that those in attendance listening may be a little less receptive to his findings this time around.

“As part of preparing the audit report I did listen to some audio of some of the meetings with the city council and the school committee,” he said. “I do have a sense that this will be a different audience than the school committee was.”

Helping further frame the possible tumultuousness of the upcoming meeting is the likelihood that both members and advocates of Mentor Rhode Island and WISE Union members will show up en masse to make their presence known during public comments and through signs. Both groups have been directly affected by cuts enacted by the school committee to address what was at one time an $8.1 million deficit.

Previous meetings throughout the budget process between the council and school administrators have included tense exchanges, with some council members expressing open distrust of the school department’s operations and fiscal responsibility. Criticism over expenditures, such as the renovation of the former Gorton Middle School into an administration building that feature large classrooms converted into air-conditioned offices for administrators, have occurred frequently.

However, Hicks maintained on Wednesday that he will simply provide the context necessary to understand his report.

“The report is the report, and I'll be presenting the same report from the same document,” he said. “I don’t anticipate the content of the presentation being any different.”

Some, like Democratic mayoral candidate Richard Corrente, have criticized the audit report as not being truly objective, because the school committee chose their own auditor to conduct analyses of their fiscal and programmatic practices. Hicks said that he was given no instructions following being hired.

“I try to base my conclusions in data and let people see how the info I found is grounded in the data that I looked at,” he said. “I was hired by the school but they never asked me to find any specific finding. I was just looking at how they can best attempt to meet the funding level and what was possible and what was not possible, both in the immediate situation and the out years.”

The audit revealed that a large portion of the approximately $6.6 million in cuts approved by the school committee to help balance that aforementioned deficit in July – cuts that included 15 custodians and cuts directly affecting programs and services to students – would be in direct violation of the state BEP, and would need to be restored immediately.

The audit searched for inefficiencies and found very little room to cut in terms of personnel, save for about $1.2 million that could be saved from eliminating ever kindergarten TA position. It revealed that about 16.5 additional teachers could be cut at the secondary level while still remaining efficient.

The audit also concluded that Warwick was not overstaffed at the administration level, but that Superintendent Philip Thornton’s salary was about $35,000 over the average for other like districts. It also revealed that the biggest cost driver for schools in Warwick was teacher salaries, which have a $5.1 million higher impact on the budget as a whole over the next closest like community.

Finally, the audit concluded that Warwick was the only district among similar communities to spend less money on a per pupil basis over the last two years, a fact that Hicks said during his audit report in August was evidence that Warwick’s school consolidation over the past few years has indeed been saving the district money, just not perhaps as much as some school critics would like to see.

Hicks stood by his report, and said he would be ready to deliver it to the council on Monday.

“I think nothing is ever perfect but I do think it is complete and accurate and I think I shared the standards that I used,” he said. “Other people can do these reports and take different approaches, but I try to follow the money, find out where the money is going and try to explain why the money is going there and try to explain if less money can go there.”

School officials were hopeful that the audit report would bring new fuel to a case that has yet to be proven to the council – that the schools simply need more money to operate.

“As always I'm hopeful the council will reassess the funding provided to the schools this year and look at potentially increasing the funding based on the BEP audit,” Thornton said on Wednesday.

City Council President Steve Merolla has said in the past that the council worked hard to find $1.5 million for the schools above the level-funded line they received from the budget passed off by former Mayor Scott Avedisian in May, and that the schools have begun these negotiations asking for an unreasonable amount of money that could not be legally be raised through even a max tax increase. He did not respond to a text message sent Wednesday morning asking for comment on this story.

Ward 5 Councilman and finance committee chair Ed Ladouceur said that he was awaiting “additional information” on the report, though he didn’t expand on what that information entailed.

“At this point I haven’t gone over their report and scrutinized it, but I will,” he said. “Once I've been able to analyze their report and put together some of my own conclusions, I'll be in a better position.”

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richardcorrente

The School Committee (SC) did NOT, let me repeat that, DID NOT hire an independent auditor to perform an INDEPENDANT audit like they promised. I sent the so-called audit report (courtesy of The Warwick Beacon) to a CPA from Ernst and Young who declared it totally invalid stating that it was "anything but independent". An independent audit should NEVER be ordered by the SC!! PLUS, it should never be performed by "school committee people" from another school district (Pawtucket). It should be ordered by a lottery or by the City Council! It should also be done by a CPA! This con-job has got to end. The taxpayers paid $165 million dollars to these people. When are the taxpayers going to get what they paid for? The SC won't give an honest audit but they want MILLIONS more. And if they don't get it they are threatening to sue. That's called extortion. That's called blackmail. If the City Council "gives them a dime" it will encourage more. Don't! Please don't! Warwick desperately needs a Home Rule Charter. That will keep things like this from happening.

Happy September everyone.

Thursday, September 13
CrickeeRaven

As if losing the mayoral primary 65 to 18 percent were not enough of a humiliation, the two-time loser candidate makes a fool of himself again by continuing to rail against the school committee.

"I sent the so-called audit report..."

Until he provides any proof, this statement by the two-time loser candidate remains an imaginary event.

Honest, taxpaying voters were absolutely right to overwhelmingly reject his candidacy yesterday.

Thursday, September 13
richardcorrente

Dear CrickeeRaven,

If you don't believe it, I don't give a damn. That "independent" audit is just as phony as your name.

Happy September everyone.

Thursday, September 13
CrickeeRaven

"If you don't believe it, I don't give a damn."

The two-time election loser also doesn't give proof.

His 'argument' amount to: "The audit is MORE phony than my story about showing the audit to Ernst & Young."

It is that kind of intellectually dishonest, delusional ranting that led directly to his overwhelming rejection by honest, taxpaying voters yesterday, who are definitely having a happy September knowing that we kept him out of the mayor's office yet again.

Thursday, September 13
Cat2222

"I sent the so-called audit report (courtesy of The Warwick Beacon) to a CPA from Ernst and Young who declared it totally invalid stating that it was "anything but independent".

Name and number of the CPA that you sent the report to so that I can call and verify your statement.

Thursday, September 13
CrickeeRaven

Don't hold your breath, Cat. As he's shown with his above comment, the two-time failure only knows how to respond by doing the following when trying to defend his false claims:

1. Ignore any questions

2. Insult other commenters

3. Try to change the subject

4. Stop commenting and move to another article

He also doesn't think he should have to support any of his claims with the barest shred of proof -- not when he can whine about people using screen names.

With every comment, the two-time failure makes more of a disgrace of himself and further proves why more than 6,000 of our honest, taxpaying neighbors were right to reject his candidacy yesterday.

Thursday, September 13
richardcorrente

Dear Cat2222,

"Name and number of that person so you can call her" and harass her? No. If you don't believe that I did it, I don't care! Call a CPA of your own. It's called "due diligence". It will show just how biased the "audit" that the School Committee ordered was. An "independent audit" needs to be just that. INDEPENDANT! This one was anything but!

As far as CrickeeRaven, if you continue to insult my efforts to help our taxpayers, I will continue to show that your efforts are ZERO, except to condemn, criticize and complain about mine.

I have dedicated almost 1,000 days and over $40,000 of my own money to benefit the 80,000 taxpayers that are paying the tab. Except to attack my efforts, yours have been ZERO. ZERO! Think about that you anonymous coward of a critic! I'm sure the readers will too.

Happy September everyone.

Friday, September 14
SCOT63

It's about time Richard that you let these COWARDS know how you really feel.

All they do CRICKEE, & CATT is critcize they bring nothing.

All they are is bunch of TROLLS!!!!

Good job Richard keep up the hard work..

5 days ago
CrickeeRaven

Aw, SCOT, I'm starting to think you're just worn out.

Ignoring all the times that we provided facts from verified sources and proved your two-time loser candidate to be telling lies really takes a lot of effort on your part -- so much, in fact, that you only have the energy left make four-line all-caps name-calling comments.

You also put effort into ignoring where the two-time loser just refused to provide any proof of his prior claim -- again, after so many other instances where other commenters provided links or other sources.

I'm sure he appreciates hearing that there's one person on this site who likes his refusal to back up his words with factual information. Funny how he doesn't have a problem with your screen name, too.

Here, let me show you how this is done, once again:

"I have dedicated almost 1,000 days and over $40,000 of my own money to benefit the 80,000 taxpayers that are paying the tab."

The two-time failure is counting 698 days from the 2016 campaign and 278 days from the 2018 campaign and combining them to make it look like they were consecutive -- in prior comments, he's called it "1,000 consecutive days," in fact.

Same thing with the $40,000 spent -- did you know that he wasted $1,770 on his losing 2018 run?

That's just dishonest, SCOT, to count the 2016 campaign [which, again, he lost] as a positive in the 2018 campaign.

There are not 80,000 taxpayers in Warwick. There just aren't. He's dishonestly using the population number, SCOT.

And he calls that kind of rebuttal of his false statements "insulting." I can see where it would be -- to him. Based on examples like the one I just showed you, the "insult" is that facts and information prove he's just not as good as fooling people as he thinks he is.

But look, if you want to admire a dishonest, failed candidate, that's up to you. Just like it's up to him to decide not to restrain himself from humiliating himself with ever new comment, as he's been doing for four years now.

He thinks his imaginary submission of the independent school audit is going to change anything. It's not.

There are two possible outcomes: Either the city council pays the additional $4 million, possibly from the asphalt budget they already tapped, or from the accumulated surplus that the council has already reduced by several million dollars over the last two years to fund their deficit budgets; or the school department sues the city and gets a judge to award it the $4 million anyway.

Your two-time failure candidate will not influence that, certainly not by posting fake stories on this website. He just won't.

That he, and you, deny that fact is a problem with how the two of you think and act -- not me.

Happy Losing September, SCOT!

5 days ago
JohnStark

Because the point comes from Mr. Corrente (whom I have never met) does not make it invalid. I would feel a lot better if this "audit" had been conducted by an independent auditing firm, and not an educator. On this one, I believe Mr. Corrente is absolutely correct.

5 days ago
Cat2222

If calling to ask a question is considered harassment then you and I have a very different definition of the word.

Only a fool would take someone's word for a statement such as yours and not fact check its validity. I decided to contact Ernst & Young at 40 Westminster St, Providence, RI 02903 via email since you were not willing to give the name of the person that you sent the report to and to verify that they did indeed "declared it totally invalid stating that it was "anything but independent". I am looking forward to hearing back from someone at that office. You have a habit of pulling these types of statements out of your behind and think that it will be taken as truth without any evidence but your word to back it up. As for me, I prefer solid facts to hearsay.

Maybe the city council would be interested in the opinion of your CPA? They might want to do their due diligence as well and hear what your "independent audit" had to say about their audit. Maybe you and your "friend" SCOT63 (RC 2.0) would like to present such findings at the next meeting. Knowledge is power so if you think you have something that will prove the audit done by Robert Hicks was biased then you should be informing our elected officials. Why don't you have your CPA send their independent audit to the city council? Wouldn't that be more productive then only commenting in the Beacon?

5 days ago
richardcorrente

Dear Cat2222,

Great idea! Their phone number is 401-457-3700.

When you speak to them, please make them aware that they can read the entire report by clicking on the Warwick Beacon tab. Then, please report what YOUR person from Ernst and Young has to say. I won't try to embarrass him/her by demanding to know their identity, like you did.

Dear Scot63 and JohnStark,

Thank you for taking a stand. These anonymous cowards never have any usable, positive ideas, just complaints, criticisms and condemnations. Nothing that the reader can benefit from.

Scot's right. They're trolls!

Fake news. Fake sources. Fake names. Fake people.

Happy September everyone.

5 days ago
CrickeeRaven

Cat, you just successfully proved that the two-time sore loser did not, in fact, submit anything to Ernst & Young.

"[P]lease make them aware that they can read the entire report by clicking on the Warwick Beacon tab..."

If he had submitted the audit as he claimed, wouldn't you be able to ask who received it?

"Nothing that the reader can benefit from."

Readers on this site benefited from learning the truth about the two-time sore loser's tax delinquencies and multiple lies, to the point that they and 6,000+ honest, taxpaying voters rejected his candidacy again on Sept. 12.

His name-calling and whining will not change that result, nor will it somehow make his false statements true.

Warwick voters are having a happy September knowing that they kept the two-time sore loser away from the mayor's office.

5 days ago
WwkVoter

For $1770 dollars, someone could buy a big screen TV and watch a real mayor get sworn in...

3 days ago
CrickeeRaven

JohnStark, the two-time loser's suggestion is wrong precisely because it comes from him.

Whether he agrees with it or not, the school department is following the legally-mandated process to justify its request for $4 million from the city.

So, right there, he is proving his disregard for the law when he makes demands about what should be done and foolishly accuses the school committee of blackmail and extortion.

He's also confusing the scope of a financial audit [which is done every year by the same independent auditing firm that reviews the city's books] and a program audit [which by law is done by people with experience in Basic Education Plans like Mr. Hicks].

Financial audits review the income and expenses; program audits determine whether the educational programs meet state requirements, and how much a community should be spending to meet them.

In other words, applying financial audit standards to the program audit is wrong, or, if I may use your term, invalid under current law.

That law says, in essence, that the school committee is charged with providing education and meeting BEP standards -- and the city is responsible for funding the school department so that it can achieve those standards.

His failure to understand the law and the difference between financial audits and educational program audits are yet further reasons that honest, taxpaying voters should feel justified in rejecting his candidacy again last Wednesday.

3 days ago
Cat2222

RC: "Great idea! Their phone number is 401-457-3700."

RC in same comment: "These anonymous cowards never have any usable, positive ideas,"

Once again proving you speak out of both sides of your mouth. You can't even manage to NOT contradict yourself in 1 comment. I am going to keep trying to make you responsible for your own words. I will keep investigating the validity of your statements. If you want to keep this up then I will keep it up as well.

3 days ago
CrickeeRaven

Nicely done, Cat. You absolutely proved the two-time loser's complete lack of restraint from making a fool of himself. It was especially instructive how he complimented you and then lumped you in with the "anonymous cowards" and "trolls" [the latter of which he took from SCOT's unfortunate and uninformed comment, meaning it wasn't even an original idea].

And I encourage you to keep holding him accountable for his comments -- it seems to be the one thing that truly aggravates him, although that's not the reason you should continue.

No, you and other commenters who provide factual information to disprove his claims should keep it up because it allows readers to know the truth, instead of his delusional version of events.

I'm sure we won't have too long to wait before he humiliates himself again.

3 days ago
Cat2222

"I have dedicated almost 1,000 days and over $40,000 of my own money to benefit the 80,000 taxpayers that are paying the tab. Except to attack my efforts, yours have been ZERO. ZERO! Think about that you anonymous coward of a critic! I'm sure the readers will too. "

How have you benefited the taxpayers? What have you accomplished in your own name that directly affect the citizens of Warwick?

2 days ago
CrickeeRaven

Cat, I'd also challenge the two-time election failure to try and answer your question without repeating his disproven claims about how his losing 2016 campaign affected the FY18 budget process.

I'm sure you remember those claims: How his losing run somehow "rallied" taxpayers and led the city council to "cut taxes and spending" -- when, in fact, none of that was true.

It was that FY18 budget -- with $6.5 million more in spending, not a cut -- that resulted in a $4.2 million deficit and then led to the FY19 budget's state-capped maximum tax increase.

Clearly, our honest, taxpaying neighbors did not benefit from those budgets -- or anything the two-time loser may claim that he did.

2 days ago
richardcorrente

Dear cat2222,

Just in case you didn't notice...

Scott Avedisian raised taxes EVERY YEAR FOR 18 YEARS IN A ROW! Then, I came around and campaigned for over 700 days in a row and spent over $40,000 dollars of my own money to "Cut Taxes - Cut Spending" Then. at the 2017 budget hearings Avedisian tried what he had done so many times before. He introduced 29 new, tax-increasing amendments and was denied for the first time in his Mayoral life. In fact, he was denied for the first, second, third and so on for 29 times in a row!!! AND, the vote was unanimous every time! You can call that a huge coincidence if you like. Every City Council member has credited my campaign in varying degrees. That was caused by me! My rally. There was no other reason that any member of the City Council has pointed out EXCEPT my campaign, so I ask you this honest question. If my campaign didn't effect the vote, and the entire City Council had never denied a tax increase BEFORE my campaign, then what the hell, caused them to say "No." this time?

The truth is, that the City Council heard loud and clear from their constituents. They were told "Just say "NO!" by the vast majority of the voters that they count on for re-election. It took courage to make that stand against Avedisian. They had never done that before. The taxpayers saved money. The message was delivered. I called that a "win". You can call it anything you and CrickeeRaven decide. I don't really care.

2 days ago
CrickeeRaven

No matter how many times the twice-failed candidate repeats his lies, Cat, they will remain lies.

His entire statement about the budget process is completely false.

"Scott Avedisian raised taxes EVERY YEAR FOR 18 YEARS IN A ROW!"

Lie. The FY17 budget included a reduction in the tax rate.

"Then, at the 2017 budget hearings Avedisian tried what he had done so many times before. He introduced 29 new, tax-increasing amendments..."

Lie. The city council proposed 29 amendments to the budget.

"[Avedisian] was denied for the first time in his Mayoral life... the vote was unanimous every time!"

Lie. 25 of the 29 votes were unanimous.

All of the information disproving the above claims is published here: https://warwickpost.com/digit-spinner-richard-corrente-fudges-numbers/

"Every City Council member has credited my campaign in varying degrees... There was no other reason that any member of the City Council has pointed out EXCEPT my campaign..."

Lie. There is no record of any kind in city council meeting minutes, public statements, or other proof that any city councilor said anything of the kind. None.

"[S]o I ask you this honest question..."

Lie. The twice-failed candidate is asking a dishonest question based on falsehoods that he has willfully and repeatedly posted on this website in service of his losing campaigns. His premise of being honest is, itself, false.

Thank you, Cat, for continuing to challenge the two-time failure's attempts to fool readers.

2 days ago
Cat2222

"Every City Council member has credited my campaign in varying degrees."

WHEN? WHERE? WHO SAID WHAT? Why is that so hard to answer? Where were they when you were campaigning? Why weren't they standing next to you stating how much your campaign affected the future of the city? Why was there radio silence on your contribution during the run up to the Primary?

I want facts. I want corroboration to your statements. Names, dates, documents and cold hard facts. Have at least 1 committee member back you up. Just 1 person RC. For once, back up what you say with evidence.

2 days ago
richardcorrente

Dear Cat2222,

When I said "every City Council member" I meant all nine of them. Please feel free to do your own "due diligence" and check with one or more of them, since you wouldn't believe me if I did it for you anyway. By the way, have you called Ernst and Young yet at 401-457-3700. I did today (Mon. 9-17-18) and I spoke to a very helpful guy. I won't give you his name for two reasons. 1. I don't want you calling him and harassing him like you do me and 2. you wouldn't accept my repeating his opinions anyway, so please do it yourself or accept what I have already told you. Either way, I don't give a damn if you EVER get "names, dates, documents, and cold hard facts".

How about that Cat2222?

You anonymous coward of a critic!

2 days ago
CrickeeRaven

Gee, Cat, I wonder why the two-time loser would think that you wouldn't believe him -- right after repeating his false claim and providing no evidence?

What a complete lack of self-awareness by someone who has already proven how readily he will lie.

Our honest, taxpaying neighbors were absolutely justified in rejecting his candidacy and refusing to take him at all seriously as a candidate.

2 days ago
richardcorrente

Dear Cat2222,

You did ask one fair question and I wanted to respond to it. You asked why I didn't present my CPA to the City Council to dispute the findings of the School Committee. There's two reasons. One, I wouldn't ask any CPA to do that for free and two, MY CPA is not "independent" either. The City Council deserves a truly independent audit or review-of-audit. That naturally would eliminate any CPA with ANY connection to me or any member of the School Committee. That is the very reason the School Committee NEVER should have been the party to select the so-called "independent" auditor. They knew that when they hired one. Thank you for helping me clear this up. Have you called Ernst and Young yet? 401-457-3700.

2 days ago
CrickeeRaven

Cat, look at how the two-time election loser continues to ignore how program audits work:

"[T]he School Committee NEVER should have been the party to select the so-called 'independent' auditor."

Despite his uninformed opinion, the school committee is the only body that can select a program auditor under the law.

You also caught the 2018 blowout election loser in yet another lie:

"I sent the so-called audit report (courtesy of The Warwick Beacon) to a CPA from Ernst and Young who declared it totally invalid..."

then becomes:

"I wouldn't ask any CPA to [present his opinion on the program audit] for free and... [my] CPA is not 'independent' either."

So, the two-time sore loser is so sure of his imaginary CPA's opinion that he wouldn't ask to have it made public?

That's not proof of anything, except his ability to make excuses for his lack of proof or understanding of how education law works.

Thanks for exposing his defects as a losing candidate yet again, Cat.

2 days ago
CrickeeRaven

Warwick Post is reporting that the council and school committee agreed to a "mutual" postponement of the meeting -- info in the comments:

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1854273094627738&id=625778367477223

2 days ago
PhillipDrummond

Jump on Corrente all you want but he is right on this one. The School Committee shouldn't be the ones to pick who is doing the audit. I also agree that Corrente has a chance to show leadership on this and take his findings to the council which I suspect he won't do but it does bring up the question of whether the Council should have some control over the School Committee in these types of situations. It's tough to say because the clowns who sit on the council now can barely run the city but I think even they would be able to pick an independent auditor to conduct it and give it at least the impression of impartiality.

Yesterday at 8:37 AM
CrickeeRaven

Phillip, please stop giving the two-time loser any reason to feel that he's saying anything credible. He is talking about a fiscal audit, which is different than the legally-prescribed program audit that the school committee has conducted.

The city already pays for a fiscal audit every year, and the school department publishes it, ever year. Every fiscal audit shows that the school department is properly managing its budget under current auditing standards.

There is no fiscal mismanagement happening, as determined by then independent third-party audit done every year. Another fiscal audit done right now would show nothing different than every other one that has already been conducted.

Despite what the two-time loser keeps saying, the school committee is following the law when it comes to fiscal and program audits.

He is wrong -- objectively, factually wrong -- to suggest otherwise.

He is wrong to suggest that any random CPA, who is looking at it from a fiscal audit standpoint, is qualified to determine the validity of a program audit.

He is wrong to demand that other people call a fiscal auditing firm and ask them about an educational program audit.

All you're doing is encouraging him to keep posting his conspiracy theories and false statements, and showing honest, taxpaying voters that they were right to reject his candidacy last week.

Yesterday at 9:09 AM
Cat2222

I did reach out to them but there is one problem. I don't have the name of who RC spoke to in order to ask a direct question. No one is coming forward to state they reviewed the report and gave the statement that RC posted. It either didn't happen or the person is not willing to come forward to back up their word.

My point is and has always been that when you make statements, such as RC, it is important to do your homework and see evidence of the validity of the statement. I always check snopes before I move forward with a news story because there are so many incorrect reports on the internet. I can't write a term paper without citing my sources. I can't present a project without giving evidence to support my statements.

Facts, evidence, proof all point to the truth of a statement.If you take offense to that then I believe there is an underlying problem. You are literally telling me to accept your word without any proof. Why should I?

Yesterday at 11:19 AM
CrickeeRaven

Cat, you are describing every situation in the last four years where the two-time loser has made claims about almost anything: Basic research proves his words to be lies.

He didn't contact Ernst & Young.

He didn't talk to anyone.

He didn't ask for their opinion on the program audit.

If he had, he would have presented actual proof.

Instead, he tried to bring attention to himself [and in this case, only succeeded in humiliating himself again], complained about being asked to back up his statements, called people names, and made up lame excuses for why he wouldn't offer any facts about his claims.

As well over 8,500 of our honest, taxpaying neighbors proved on Sept. 12, the two-time loser's words proved him to be unfit for office, and completely justified their decision to reject his candidacy.

Yesterday at 12:21 PM