Schools open to talks, but could sue

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Warwick school personnel are gearing up for a lawsuit against the city, but staying open to continuing negotiations regarding their lingering budgetary issues. “We are waiting for a time to meet,” said School Committee Chairwoman Karen Bachus. “I talked to the mayor and he’s trying to have his people put something together.” However, as opposed to last year – when the newly-elected school committee, which welcomed three new members and appointed Bachus as the chair, dropped the lawsuit brought forth by the former school committee that sought more funding against the city in order to give mediation efforts a chance – Bachus said this time, the schools will not be giving that benefit of time to the city. “We have to be ready in case we need to do that,” she said of filing suit. In order to do that, the school committee would need to first solicit bids and choose an individual or entity to conduct an operational and fiscal audit of the Warwick school district. Finance Director Anthony Ferrucci said that this bidding process ends Thursday at 9 a.m. and hopefully the school committee will be able to select their auditor by their meeting that same evening. Also, the district would be required to send waiver requests to the state Department of Education seeking relief from certain educational mandates, such as the Pathways Program that provides tuition to students who leave their home district to attend technical programs in other municipalities. The cost for that program alone was approximately $1.25 million as of the most recent budget. If this story sounds familiar, it’s because the school department already jumped through these hoops last year in preparation to file suit against the city – another financially nightmarish journey that went from an $8 million ask of the city, a subsequent allocation of $1.5 million, painful cuts that included school custodians and programming such as Mentor RI and, finally, a filed lawsuit that sought $4.9 million from the city that was subsequently dropped. This time around, the situation has only gotten more dire. The schools presented a need of $7.7 million to the city, to which they received no actual additional contribution from city property tax funding. The city did agree to shoulder $1.75 million in principal and interest payments from a 2006 school bond and the state pitched in about $500,000 additional over last year, but the city’s allocation remained flat from last year. Since then, schools were forced to make about $7.7 million in cuts to balance their budget. This included 46 different items, including the district’s entire sports budget, its planned new math curriculum, 10 teaching assistants in specifically co-taught first and second grade classrooms and textbooks. They are also headed into the end of the FY19 fiscal year with an approximately $4 million budget deficit, which means the Rhode Island Auditor General will be requesting a plan to shore up that problematic fiscal gap – and although the options for tackling the deficit are apparent (additional funding from the city; the establishing of unlikely surpluses in future years; or a successful Caruolo Action suit against the city), nobody can be certain which of those methods will materialize. “I don’t have an answer to that at this point,” Dennis Hoyle, Auditor General, said bluntly on Monday. The narrative that has caught the most attention regarding the financial crisis has been the elimination of sports, and Mayor Joseph Solomon has made it abundantly clear that his goal is to ensure that sports and after-school programming runs on schedule by the time school begins in September. In fact, he all but promised students who stormed his office last week that he would be saving the sports programs. There is a large concern with this line of thinking, however. First, Solomon has no ability to dictate how the school department spends its money. And going along with that, the school department – and Bachus noted herself – that the top priority items that need to be restored should more funding become available is not necessarily sports programming. “We have to bring back academics and things like student assistance counselors before we can bring back sports. I’m not sure what he’s thinking,” she said. “Hopefully he intends to help us do that.” According to financial documents prepared by the school department, the district would need about $4 million before it would be able to reinstate sports and the 16 items listed as higher priorities.

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Johnny Tsunami
someone please call the yogurt man. We need him again!
Tuesday, June 25
davebarry
They always threaten to cut sports first. Instead of doing the hard work of making actual cuts. The city will likely cave again.
Tuesday, June 25
godhelpus
Warwick is a mess. Probably not going to get any better.God help us
Tuesday, June 25
Hepdog
35% of the budget goes to retirees and it's increasing. That's where you need to start cutting.
Tuesday, June 25
city cave?
City cave? City has given schools $14,000 in new tax property tax dollars in last 10 years. Their spending is out of control but they get a pass.
Tuesday, June 25
new warwick please
Time for the city to declare bankruptcy and start over. Why wait. Its inevitable anyways with the way things are going.
Tuesday, June 25
Hillsgrove Hal
I've seen a lot of comments talking about bankruptcy -- it doesn't work the same way for cities. Under Rhode Island law, a city or town can't just "declare bankruptcy." Instead, a city is put under the control of a state budget commission, which -- as the name suggests -- takes over its financial management. The commission can raise taxes, impose budget cuts, and review contracts, specifically to avoid bankruptcy. And there's no such thing as "starting over." Warwick is going to go through some serious financial pain, soon, and the people who can do something about it are not doing their jobs.
Tuesday, June 25
wwkvoter
The RI FSA (Fiscal Stability Act ) passed around 2010, sets I think three levels of state intervention with the third being full receivership like Central Falls. It should be noted that CF saw a 19% property tax INCREASE despite numerous pension cutbacks for existing retirees! East Providence had a lower level of FSA intervention with oversight on their budget by the state. Does anyone know if EP had any retirees or city worker pay or benefits reduced? What other pain did they experience I wonder? Havent found that outcome yet but here's the start of it: https://www.golocalprov.com/news/breaking-state-appoints-fiscal-overseer-for-east-providence Woonsocket also had intervention, here is that outcome: http://www.valleybreeze.com/2015-03-20/woonsocket-north-smithfield/woonsocket-budget-commission-disbands-leaves-behind-fiscal#.XRNzs-hKjIU Here it is, you can drop down each entity the FSA engaged (four I think) http://www.municipalfinance.ri.gov/data/fiscal-stability/
Wednesday, June 26
Scal1024
Hillsgrove Hal, J agree with everything you said. Bankruptcy sounds like a great talking point, the reality is much worse.
Wednesday, June 26
Flexi-Bull
Wwkvoter and Scal just ruined my day. I was really hoping to join the 20 people at the library tomorrow to listen to Ken Block and Bobby Cushman spew more fallacies about the city. Then listen him talk about finding a candidate who will run on a “sink the ship” platform. Lunatics. Why in this city of 80,000 plus can we not find someone willing to roll up their sleeves and start fixing this city’s. It’s not impossible. But a couple of clowns with a voice think bankruptcy is the answer out of pure spite. Someone tell me one “fact” Ken Block has stated that actually came true? He gets his info from Cote who again thinks he knows everything when in fact the actual facts aren’t even close. This city is doomed because of extremely poor leadership.
Wednesday, June 26
Cat
Once again, finger pointing and no real leadership. One side doens't hold all the blame. Both sides have contributed to this problem. I am totally against declaring bankruptcy in Warwick. It isn't a magic pill. I also hope there is not suit because that is just more money being thrown away. Don't just accept the adversarial roles you have been made to play. Let's see real leadership and partnership come from this situation. You don't have to be enemies. You can actually come together and negotiate in good faith. If you don't, I won't vote for a single one of you again in the next election.
Wednesday, June 26
Patient Man
Hepdog wrote 35% of the budget goes to retirees. I find that # hard to believe. Does anyone know what it is? It has been reported that almost 100% of tax increases for many years has gone to the pensions. It burns my butt that almost every year our taxes go up & the city services & school get nothing or close to nothing. Avedisian was horrible, but the idiots in Warwick reelected him with 75-80% of the votes.
Wednesday, June 26
Bob_Cushman
From 2004 through the 2020 proposed budget, $61,237,885 in new property tax dollars was allocated to the city budget. Here is a breakdown of those dollars: Active Employee Expenses: $26,008,952 or 42% Retired Employee Benefits: $26,898,459 or 44% All other Spending: $8,330,885 or 14% 2020 proposed budget breakdown: Retired Employee Benefits: $45,462,116 or 29% Active Employee Expenses: $80,276,673 or 51% Capital Expense & Debt: $9,755,281 or 6% All Other Spending: $21,486,545 or 14%
Wednesday, June 26
we are eventually doomed in warwick
The city is doomed to fail at some point. No one in leadership will do whats necessary to right the off course and sinking ship. Its too bad really. Way too much of this in our beloved country.
Wednesday, June 26
Patient Man
Thanks Bob Cushman, How is a city supposed to run itself when 29% of it's budget goes to people who don't work anymore.
Thursday, June 27