School Dept. prepares for possible suit against city

Posted

The Warwick School Department is laying the groundwork for a scenario in which they may elect to sue the City of Warwick over a perceived lack of adequate school funding.

On Friday, May 18 the department officially released and advertised a request for proposals (RFP) to hire an auditor to perform a fiscal analysis of the schools and their operating budget, which would have to occur if the department moved forward and brought action against the city in superior court.

“Warwick Schools must prepare for every budget eventuality with regard to the operating budget for school year 2018-2019,” said Superintendent Philip Thornton in a statement on Monday. “The Warwick School Committee went forth with an RFP for a program audit of Warwick Schools as part of this preparation.”

Under Chapter 16-2 of the Rhode Island General Laws, school departments are given the right to bring action against a city or town following receipt of their budget appropriations if they are able to “demonstrate that the school committee lacks the ability to adequately run the schools for that school year with a balanced budget within the previously authorized appropriation.”

This is known as a “Caruolo Action,” named after former state representative George Caruolo who sponsored the legislation to create the legal provision. It has been utilized multiple times in Cranston since 2003, and was utilized in 2010 after the city cut the school’s budget by the maximum 5 percent allowable by the state after the 2008 housing crisis caused a recession. In that case, the court ruled with the City of Warwick and did not restore funding lost from that cut.

As of now, this measure is preliminary, as the school department does not know how much of the approximately $8 million ask for additional funding to their budget they will actually receive from the City Council. Schools asked for a $171.4 million. Avedisian budgeted $163.9 million. The school budget hearing is scheduled for May 29 at City Hall, and Superintendent Philip Thornton met with acting Mayor Joseph Solomon to discuss the issue on Monday afternoon.

“My concern is why are they working with less funding this year than last year?” Solomon said, speaking of former Mayor Scott Avedisian’s proposed FY19 budget, which in its current configuration level funds the schools from the city’s appropriations, however decreases the overall school budget by about $1.3 million; the result of a drop in state contributions stemming from declining enrollment in Warwick.

Solomon said he came to the conclusion that because Avedisian and Thornton were in a good working relationship, the school department had some prior knowledge of this development going into the crafting their budget. He said he hoped there would be no need for litigation moving forward, but did not comment on whether or not the schools would be receiving more money when the council makes their amendments to the proposed budget in the coming weeks.

Should the school department not receive additional funding from the city that it deems necessary to provide an adequate education to its students, the school committee would have to first approve an auditing company that responds to the bid during their June meeting.

Once approved, the auditor would have three months to provide a written report containing the summary of its findings, which would include a recommendation of whether or not the school department is justified in their claims that they cannot operate to a level adequate with the state’s Basic Educational Plan (BEP) under the proposed budgetary amount.

The audit would look at everything from the school department’s delivery of curriculum, distribution of its resources and management of its personnel to its adherence to state mandates and efficiency of its organizational structure from top to bottom.

Comments

10 comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment
richardcorrente

I have said for several years now that the School Committee (SC) should be audited by an outside INDEPENDANT auditing company with all results published in the Warwick Beacon. I have said many times that this should take place "BEFORE WE GIVE THEM ANOTHER DIME!" I have suggested that the SC is becoming too powerful and is trying to have the taxpayers pay for their own agenda rather than benefit the students. Now, if they don't extort more money from the taxpayers, they are threatening to sue? How do you justify that?

Be careful what you ask for members of the SC. Be very careful. The 80,000 taxpayers that are paying the tab are watching!

Acting Mayor Joe Solomon asks why "they are working with less funding this year than last year?" I suggest it's because we have far fewer teachers to pay, far fewer students to educate and far less school buildings to maintain.

In fact, the only category that has increased is administration, and with a new "Asst. Principal of Climate and Culture" added to the new "Asst. Principal of Teaching and Learning", it seems that we have far more administrators than ever before to oversee "far fewer teachers to pay, far fewer students to teach, and far less buildings to maintain." And now that we pink-slipped 72 MORE teachers, I am hard-pressed to understand why we shouldn't CUT the budget of the school department. Our student population has crashed from 17,000 to 8,500. Warwick has LESS THAN HALF THE STUDENTS that we had in 2009 with a budget that has gone up. Why does the budget have to be so large? Unless the SC is overspending somewhere.

Obviously not on the students. Obviously not on the teachers. Obviously not on the buildings. But somewhere.

The SC should be very careful.

Very careful.

Happy Spring/Summer everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Tuesday, May 22
CrickeeRaven

"Be careful," writes the make-believe mayor, who has carelessly continued to repeat false statements, including the following:

"[The School Committee (SC) should be audited by an outside INDEPENDANT [correct spelling is "independent"] auditing company..."

The school department is already audited annually by the same independent firm that reviews the city's books. Another audit would only cost more money and waste more time to reach exactly the same conclusion.

"Before we give them another dime..."

Refusing to pay the school budget would result in a lawsuit -- not prevent one. The make-believe mayor again shows his complete lack of understanding about government operations.

"Our student population has crashed from 17,000 to 8,500. Warwick has LESS THAN HALF THE STUDENTS that we had in 2009..."

False. The make-believe mayor is lying about the change in the student population. Warwick's school population was 17,000 in the 1970s, and its currently 9,172: http://infoworks.ride.ri.gov/district/warwick

This information has been provided to the make-believe mayor previously; his refusal to acknowledge facts will be among the many defects that honest, taxpaying voters understand about him when they overwhelmingly reject his candidacy at the earliest opportunity.

Tuesday, May 22
CrickeeRaven

Anyone looking for factual, objective information about Warwick's school population can find it at page 27 of this PDF: https://www.warwickri.gov/sites/warwickri/files/uploads/part_1_setting_the_stage.pdf

The data provided by the Rhode Island State Department of Education shows that Warwick's school population in 2009 was 10,560 -- not 17,000 as the make-believe mayor falsely claims, meaning the reduction in students from 2009 through the current year is 1,388 -- not 8,500.

Tuesday, May 22
schwanee

Let me just stick my neck out here. If student enrollment is down, Shouldn't the School Dept get less money? The State has given them less and so should the city. But the amount should not go back to the city side of the budget. I have an idea for the first time in over twenty years, there should be no increase to the Taxpayers of Warwick.

Tuesday, May 22
WwkVoter

Thanks Raven as always, for showing what UTTER NONSENSE this fake mayor corrente guy puts out seemingly after every story.

think corrente is "touched", and not by an angel, if you, you know, know what I mean...

Wednesday, May 23
JusthaFacts

While laying off teachers and closing schools Thornton continues to increase spending in his 4 favorite areas: bussing, administrative expenses (salaries & new offices,) outside lawyers and consultants. Parents and taxpayers have to vote out the school committee members that hired and support him.

Wednesday, May 23
ThatGuyInRI

It's so entertaining watching the wannabe mayor get crushed. I can hardly wait for the election!

Wednesday, May 23
WwkVoter

Raven can you please repost that link, and the document name for a search in case link doesnt work again, it was cutoff. Thanks

Wednesday, May 23
CrickeeRaven

Hello again ThatGuyInRI:

What's most pathetic about the make-believe mayor is that he does this to himself. He repeatedly posts false statements, even after they are proven to be lies, as if they're magically going to become true because he repeats them often enough. And to compound this, he refuses to do even the barest research to find the actual data -- and then continues to claim others are wrong when they provide links to that factual, objective information.

In this case, he has provided no links or other evidence for his claim of a student population drop from 17,000 to 8,500 in the last 10 years -- none. Why is that? Because such a change in the student population did not happen -- and pardon me while I repeat that for the make-believe mayor: DID NOT HAPPEN -- and he can not find any data to show that it did.

By contrast, the data provided above compares 2009 and 2018 data from RIDE using the exact same criteria to count students. As a result, the make-believe mayor can not construct an inaccurate comparison and draw false conclusions from this data, so to him, it must not exist.

But this factual, objective data does exist, as does the absolute certainty that, as you rightly note, he will be overwhelmingly rejected by honest, taxpaying voters at the earliest opportunity. And when his finds himself, again, the loser in an election, he will have no one to blame but himself.

Wednesday, May 23
CrickeeRaven

Hi WwkVoter:

Sure -- the mobile version of the website cuts off long URLs, so I've included bit.ly links instead:

"Setting the Stage" PDF [Comprehensive Plan 2013-2033] from the City of Warwick: https://bit.ly/2kgTFki

InfoWorks Warwick data: https://bit.ly/2x3M0Pq

Wednesday, May 23