Solomon: Sports 'will remain in place'

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Mayor Joseph Solomon reiterated Wednesday morning that the city is committed to ensuring that sports programming continues uninterrupted during the 2019-20 school year, which at this time is in jeopardy of being cut due to the school department’s projected $7.7 million deficit for the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1.

Solomon said he had set up a “tentative” request for the two sides to meet and set parameters for mediation to discuss that deficit, but that he was waiting to hear back from the schools. Superintendent Philip Thornton said on Wednesday he had indeed received the request, but deferred to School Committee Chairwoman Karen Bachus as to whether or not the schools would be acquiescing to that request. Bachus did not return a text message as press time approached Wednesday.

“We want to get this thing going,” he said. “One of the first things I would like to discuss was our plan going forward as to our after school sports and things of that nature from the city’s point of view.”

Solomon has said in recent days that he is exploring the option of having the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation take over responsibilities including the maintenance of school sports facilities – which the city owns – which he believes could save costs and help save any sports programming from being subject to cuts.

“We can do the fields, and that frees up school personnel to do other things for the school, whether it be building maintenance, custodial or other duties,” Solomon said. “These are duties they were performing before so there’s a direct correlation and benefit to parks and recreation taking over some of those activities. That’s what my plan is to gear up and do, and I’ve spoken to [parks and recreation director] Mr. [James] Scott and that’s what I plan on presenting to the school department as we go forward. I think it’s a win-win for both the taxpayers and the schools.”

However, there may be a battle on the horizon regarding this approach with the Warwick Independent School Employee (WISE) Union, which is the group that includes workers who currently maintain the fields and sports facilities for schools.

In a letter to the editor written by WISE Union president Mary Townsend, she asserts that such an approach would violate the labor union’s collective bargaining agreement.

“Mayor Solomon appears to be determined to solve financial problems in the City of Warwick on the backs of Warwick Public Schools' employees,” she writes in the letter. “Mayor Solomon appears to be lowering his standards of governance by attempting to replace Warwick Public School workers with City workers.”

“RI Council 94 is prepared to stand with us to protect our jobs and benefits, and most of all our students and staff that rely on the work we do to prepare and support our schools as places of education and learning,” she continued. “In conclusion, any outsourcing of our work to any other entity, including the City of Warwick, would violate our contract. We are prepared to exercise our contractual rights to continue to do the work that we have always done for the students and staff of Warwick Public Schools.”

Solomon said he had not received this correspondence from the WISE Union, and he wasn’t aware of a specific contractual provision within their contract that would create such a conflict.

“Not knowing their contracts, I don’t really want to comment on their contract not knowing their contract. I’m not getting into the union aspect that Mary Townsend is presenting because of course I’m not privy to it. I’m getting into the perfunctory duties of parks and recreation to maintain those facilities that are, technically, our city facilities,” he said. “Now, employee-wise, I’m not telling them what to do with their employees. I don’t profess to know their contract. That’s entirely up to them and maybe that’s why I’m not privy to any correspondence that you’ve received. It’s outside my realm.”

Solomon said the city hadn’t ascertained how much it would cost for the city to pick up the costs of maintaining the athletic facilities, but that “we have the abilities to do what we have to do.” He stressed that everyone has the same goal of saving sports programming in mind.

“It’s something that both myself and the city council feel very passionate about. And if there has to be some adjustment within the budget then so be it,” he said. “But the thing is, after school sports will remain in place. And those on the council and in the mayor’s office and I believe most of the school committee members believe in that goal. So, let’s go positive and not negative. I’m not looking to challenge labor contracts or anything of that nature. I’m just looking to keep something necessary and good in place.”

Parks and recreation director James Scott said that better collaboration between the city and the school department in regards to sports would have benefits for everybody.

“If parks and schools could coordinate a little better, we’ll be able to align some of the existing programs in the city, find niches where we need to supplement or create new programs and sort of support that whole continuum from [kindergarten] to high school and then add some activities for after, as people move further on in life,” he said.

Solomon said that the goal was not for the city to usurp the school department’s authority, but simply to better utilize resources and ensure the sports programs are able to run uninterrupted.

“I see the city and parks and rec playing a greater role in that area. But that doesn’t mean we’re taking over the sports themselves,” he said. “No one is looking to take over that aspect of it. We’re just looking to mitigate the expenses of keeping this program in place and being reassured that it will remain in place.”

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Hillsgrove Hal

More "mediation."

More ignorance ("I don’t profess to know their contract... It’s outside my realm.”)

This, despite sitting in meetings within the last month where he (illegally) agreed to use WISE pension contributions, as explained in their CONTRACT, to balance the school budget.

No resolution to this year's budget deficit (with 2 weeks left in the fiscal year) or next year's budget.

This is not the leadership Solomon promised when he was elected.

Thursday, June 13
Patient Man

Why didn't he conduct due diligence before going public with his plans. I hope he gets a lot better.

Thursday, June 13
Fed up

Patient man,

You hope he gets a lot better? He has had 20 years to get better. Are you speaking in terms of geologic time or in terms of the immediate need?

Thursday, June 13
Patient Man

Fed up,

we're stuck with him for 18 months. I may be patient but I'm not hopeful.;-)

Thursday, June 13
Hillsgrove Hal

Patient Man, that seems to be a recurring theme with Solomon.

The WISE pension fund idea; the fire contract arbitration announcement; the DPW budget that doesn't follow city ordinances; the Warwick Center for the Arts proposal; the next budget that leaves the schools almost $8 million short -- in all of those cases, he rushed to say something or agree to a plan, then it all fell apart because he didn't do his homework.

Unfortunately, this is such a pattern with him that I don't think he'll be able to change it at this point.

Thursday, June 13
taxpayers moron

It's clear now, Solomon is only smarter than ONE other person in all of Warwick and that would be the "late" taxpayers moron.

What an idiot.

Hopefully voters get "2020" vision!

Thursday, June 13
RISchadenfreude

Before any cuts are made to student programs, daily costs of the teachers' and administrations' budgets need to be more closely analyzed.

Are administrators using city-owned vehicles, especially for personal business? If they take the vehicle home it's personal business. Period. Do they have cell phones provided by the taxpayers? Data programs for tablets that are used anywhere but on school grounds for anything but school business? Are any expenses and expense accounts audited? Overhead which was approved before the budget crisis needs to be analyzed to trim the fat from operating budgets, not student activities...this is how it's done in the real world.

The number of union administration and staff positions has grown exponentially in the last 40 years at the direct expense of taxpayers.

Friday, June 14
wwkvoter

That post makes little sense. The overwhelming majority of dollars of cost is for salary and benefits for EVERYBODY who operates the schools. Most of Warwick's teachers are at top step, and the contract agreements specify maximum class sizes (which if anything are still too big in many cases). With X number of students, you'll need X number of positions. It really IS that simple. It has been established that Warwick does not have too many administrative positions (principles, asst principles, and others who handle the vast amount of required documentation and administrative process).

Cell phone data plans and electronics etc etc are a very small portion of the budget.

Friday, June 14
PaulHuff

One would think that the Mayor....or someone on his staff would actually research issues before he goes to the media with his proposed solutions.

Warwicks elected officials seem amateurish to me....despite a few of them being on the council for decades. This is basic stuff that is getting screwed up now.

Friday, June 14
Same Old Same Old

How quickly we forget. Scotty gave the teachers a $13 million pay increase over 3 yrs but yet put no money in his last budget to pay for it.

Let's not forget Bachus voted against the raises before she voted for them. She is a disgrace.

Saturday, June 15
Happy

I am laughing hysterically here!

When is Solomon, the City Counsel, the School Committee and all the rest of the rest of our finest realize that they no longer run the City, the Unions do!

They'll have the final say on what they get paid, what they will get for benefits and who is going to do what job.

If you don't like it, move!

If programs get cut, so what (as long as there are not Union members being displaced).

Life is good, we don't have problems, only solutions! (LAUGHING!)

Sunday, June 16
Warwick mom

So, the mayor wants parks and recreation to take over the school athletic fields, but refuses to fix Mickey Steven's, which is already part of their jurisdiction? How does he justify that?

Sunday, June 16
wwkvoter

warwick mom that's a good point...

Monday, June 17
seems to me

when your making a budget you have to have the money in place. Its not like the sports budget wasn't part of the the budget before. Putting it all on sports is not the answer other than trying to get the attention of the people. Sadly having the town do the fields seeing they have the equipment makes total sense but why where they not doing it all along?

Monday, June 17
Hillsgrove Hal

Same old same old, from the reading I've done on the Beacon website about this, the cost of the teacher contract was not a surprise for the city council; they set aside $3 million in the first year to pay for it before it was settled -- then apparently delayed releasing the money after the contract was signed.

The budget that Avedisian submitted last year was, likewise, not a surprise for the city council -- they had total control over the budget from there, and they decided not to put enough money into it.

As I've been saying, they are all to blame, but Solomon and the council are still around to do anything about it -- and look what they're doing (or more accurately, not doing).

They're not funding the schools, they're not resolving the current budget deficit, and they're not doing anything to address the deficit in the next budget.

If anyone is forgetting anything, it's Solomon and the council who are forgetting that they're the ones who are supposed to fix this mess instead of blaming other people.

Monday, June 17
Same Old Same Old

So let me understand this....Scottie has no responsibility for the fiscal cliff Warwick finds itself.

Scottie negotiates a outlandish contract with the teachers' union just before he gets his $70k pension but it's the City Councils fault. Avedisian established a prescription drug cap that costs the city over $4 million per yr. without doing a cost study but I guess that's the taxpayers' doing.

Side deals took place with the fire dept but Scottie had no culpability. Get my drift.

HILLGROVE HAL would have you believe Avedisian isn't responsible for any of the mess Warwick is in but the citizens aren't buying his spin.

Monday, June 17
Hillsgrove Hal

Same old same old, clearly you ignored this part of my comment:

"As I've been saying, they are all to blame..."

Read that again: They are all to blame.

That includes Avedisian.

That also includes Solomon and the council who are still in office and should be fixing the problems instead of blaming other people.

So, you didn't get anything straight except your failure to comprehend what I actually wrote.

Monday, June 17
Scal1024

I agree with a previous comment this isn't the first time Solomon has had a self induced fire to put out. Announcing an agreement was reached with the WFD before the WFD ever agreed to a deal was a mistake. Speaking publicly about saving school sports was a mistake. Suggesting Parks and Rec could take over WISE positions on school grounds without thinking the Union would or could challenge is a mistake.

I can forgive a mistake but I am less forgiving when a similar mistake is made multiple times. You either learn from a mistake or you don't. I think the Mayor knows he was wrong already on this issue which is why he is slowly backing away from it. I can't help but feel whoever is advising this Mayor is letting him down in a major way over the last 6 months. This city cannot afford labor turmoil on top of every other issue we are facing. It seems as a city we're not solving problems right now we're creating new ones. The Mayor and his staff need to measure twice and cut once over the next year or two, that hasn't been a priority so far in this term.

Monday, June 17
Jimmy

Scal, how about the city appealing the WFD Pension 2 ruling. The cities own lawyer Vinny Ragusta bailed after saying it wasn’t a winnable appeal. While they were in contract negotiations Merolla had the union served appeal papers. Not the best way to negotiate. Seems like throwing more money after bad.

Tuesday, June 18
Scal1024

Jimmy, that was another head scratching move that I just cannot see the benefit in. The City needs to move on and not tie the city up in litigation costs. It would be a good gesture towards resetting negotiations after the last contract was rejected.

Wednesday, June 19
Jimmy

I hope more and more people are actually seeing what Solomon and Merolla are doing to this city.

Wednesday, June 19
Hillsgrove Hal

Sports "will remain in place."

Again, Solomon said something, only for it not to happen: https://warwickpost.com/warwick-school-committee-cuts-sports-program-7-7m-from-budget/

Sports will not "remain in place" without the money to fund them -- and Solomon and the city council have decided that the city won't provide that money.

Wednesday, June 19
perky

no tax payers money for sports hes misusing funds by using money for the roads let the parents pay joes the wrong man for the job

Tuesday, July 2