In the hopes of generating a more stable, accurate picture of the Warwick School Department’s budget situation year to year, a new subcommittee of the Warwick School Committee and school finance director Tony Ferrucci will be hashing out the structure of a five-year plan of anticipated revenues and expenditures – a first of its kind in Warwick.
“It will hold people accountable,” Ferrucci said during a phone interview on Wednesday. “It's the only way that we're going to get out from underneath this rock.”
The newly elected school committee, which welcomed three new members following last November’s election, initiated the creation of a finance subcommittee during its first public meeting in January. That subcommittee held its first meeting last month, and currently only has two officially appointed members – chairwoman Karen Bachus and newly-elected District 1 (Wards 1, 2 and 3) school committee member Kyle Adams, however its meetings are open to the public and provide the ability for others to partake.
The fiscal subcommittee will hold another meeting tonight at 6 p.m. at the Gorton Administration Building on Draper Avenue, where Ferrucci will be looking for guidance from the subcommittee on what assumptions should be factored into the five-year plan regarding expected revenue and expenditures.
“Things are variable. They will change. Even the direction of a district can change,” Ferrucci said. “What assumptions do you want to build into it?”
For example, the schools cannot project with certainty what revenue they will receive from the state year to year, but they can project to receive certain percentages above or below the current support, or project a flatline. Similarly, the plan will have to include assumptions beyond the scope of current collective bargaining agreements, which means they will have to assume teachers and support staff will either get no raises or, if they are to factor in raises, what percent raises will be doled out and to whom.
The idea, Ferrucci explained, is to be able to provide as thorough, transparent and accurate (as accurate as mathematically is possible) picture to city officials as possible for budget season, in the hopes it will reduce confusion and distrust between the two government bodies regarding where projected financial figures come from.
“It's going to be a collaborative effort with regards to what the expenditure assumptions are,” he said. “If we say we need $4 million for the next four years, we’ll be able to show the assumptions we used. It will provide clarity and prevent people from seeing a number and asking, ‘Where did you get that number? Did you pick it out of the air?’”
Ferrucci said the hope is to finalize a structure for the five-year plan and bring it to the full school committee for their November meeting. Once it passes through the committee, it will be given to the City Council and Mayor’s Office for their edification. Having everyone on the same page regarding a long-term fiscal outlook for the schools should be a benefit to the community, Ferrucci said.
“The community will be better informed as to what to expect,” he said. “If you deviate from that [projection], then you answer the question of why did you deviate from that.”
The school department’s construction of a five-year plan coincides with the Warwick City Council working on one of their own from the municipal side of things, the final report of which was delved into during last night’s council meeting that was unfortunately happening at the time of the Beacon’s press deadline.