Schools approve $171.9M budget

Request for 66% increase in city funds goes to mayor

Posted

The Warwick School Committee approved Wednesday by a vote of 4-1 (Karen Bachus dissenting) the Warwick School Committee approved a $171.9 million budget for the FY19, an increase of $1.2 million from the superintendent’s recommended budget.

With this new figure in mind, the School Department is now asking for $130.5 million from the city, an increase in $8,145,000, a 6.6 percent increase. The budget has been shaped by a combination of cost increases resulting from contract agreements, reduction in state aid and the retention of positions that would have otherwise been cut more from the Warwick City Council when they go before them in late May, as reported during the budget hearing on Wednesday by finance director Anthony Ferrucci.

Contributing to this is a $575,000 loss in revenue from the state after the department learned that it would be enrolling 150 fewer general tuition students than expected. An additional cost of $650,000 comes from the school committee’s unanimous decision to restore 6.5 math interventionist specialists who were scheduled to be cut in the new budget.

“To not offer that to students...that is unconscionable,” said School Committee member David Testa, who introduced a motion to restore the positions through whatever means necessary, “That’s not a want, I think that’s a need.”

His motion was agreed upon unanimously by the school committee.

School Committee member Bachus tried to make a couple motions of her own – one to reinstate three reading interventionists who were cut due to the closing of three schools as part of the district’s consolidation efforts, and another to reinstate department head positions at the middle school level – but neither passed.

In their defense of a reduction in reading interventionists, chief academic officer Sheryl Rabbitt said that their current model has at least one reading interventionist in each school, and that increasing the number of students seen by the interventionist at one time has increased the total number of kids who can get help, as opposed to favoring one-on-one time.

“It’s not one-to-one but one-to-four, one-to-six. It’s groups of students that move in and out of intervention, and exit when they hit certain thresholds,” Rabbitt said. “It allows them to see more students throughout the year...Since this approach was implemented, the students at the upper grades have now been attended to, which wasn’t happening prior to this change of model.”

However, Bachus maintained that the reading interventionists needed more help in the schools.

“With all due respect I’ve spoken to a number of the reading specialists who say they’re just not getting to enough kids and they don’t have enough hours in the week to do what they need to do for these kids,” said Bachus.

Testa urged that it was important to leave the academic model consistent for at least a couple years to assess its efficacy before trying to change it once again.

“Whatever you do, if you don’t measure it then you don’t know if it is working or isn’t working,” he said. “This was also a cultural shift to some degree of how we did it before.”

Rabbitt agreed with this sentiment.

“Now that we will have two full years in this approach we will be able to tend to the measures against those trends,” she said.

Bachus then moved to reinstate guidance counselors at the elementary level, a fight that she has championed since the positions were removed from the budget and their responsibilities reassigned to school psychologists and vice principals throughout the district.

“Guidance counselors serve more functions than I think people realize,” she said. “The job the guidance counselors did with our kids was significant and it worked and we need them back.”

Bachus’ motion failed to garner a second from any other committee member. “Let the record show,” she said in response.

The FY19 includes a few key areas of difficulty contributing to a high ask from the city, most notably paying for the salary and step increases to teachers as mandated in the new collective bargaining agreement, a 2 percent decrease in the state’s funding formula towards Warwick in addition to funds lost from declining enrollment numbers and the ongoing debt service that the district must continue to pay from a 2006 bond to the tune of about $1.7 million.

“What does $1.7 million get us? It gets us 17 teachers, it gets us 900 Chromebooks, it gets us a capital reserve fund. There’s a lot of things we can get for $1.7 million, but right now we’re not getting that,” said Testa. “Those are dollars we can’t use for anything else, and everything else we can use it for is more important than what we’re using it for…It’s frustrating to say the least.”

Testa said he explored ideas of extending bus routes so that they could save money necessary for purchasing 10 additional buses at $80,000 apiece, but that was found to not be feasible. He said he promoted the idea of having the community pay for busing, but that was not allowed due to a prior Rhode Island court decision. He brought up how cutting the budget for fuel or raiding the insurance reserve fund were both unwise policies that wouldn’t help in the long run.

“My point in mentioning it is this is where we’re reduced to,” he said. “It’s embarrassing as a community to be the second biggest community, well, tied as the second biggest community in Rhode Island and have to be doing this.”

One member of the public agreed that the financial position was a problem in Warwick, especially in regards to what the state contributes, and called upon the school administration to try and do something about it.

“We need to stop arguing with the city for funds and we need to get to the State House and we need to lobby, and we need to find grants and we need to make it known that we are having these fiscal problems and these building problems and that we’re cutting important programs,” said Judy Cobden during public comment. “If you do not try, you’re not going to get an answer. Trying will get you somewhere, whether you get what you need or not, but it’s at least an attempt.”

The School Department is now awaiting word on when they will appear before the City Council to present their new budget and their updated request of $8,145,000 in contributions from the city. The request has gone to the mayor who must present his budget to the City Council by May. 15

“I think it's a logical ask for what they want to accomplish,” said Mayor Scott Avedisian on Friday.

School finance officer Anthony Ferrucci said that the state aid issue was a “huge issue” that the community has been dealing with, and that declining enrollment has been a noticeable trend going back at least five years.

“I think a lot of people want to point a finger and say it has something to do with the community, but all indications to us say it's just baby trends,” he said. “The current pattern of having children and how many children to a family, I think, is what's catching up with us.”

Correction from last week

In the Tuesday, April 17 edition of the Beacon, a story on a budget hearing for the schools held on Thursday, April 12 reported inaccurately that the FY19 budget included funding for 13 new Promethean Boards at each elementary library. That funding was actually cut by the superintendent to help balance the new budget.

Likewise, the story said that funding was included in the FY19 budget to continue the SIMS (Summer Induction for Middle School Students) program, however that funding was also recommended to be cut by the superintendent. The SIMS program will still run this summer leading up to the opening of school in the fall, but only because of a Title 3 grant. It is not budgeted for in proceeding years.

Comments

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Justanidiot

mastermayer, hows can you lets our taxes be ripped from are hands again. wats did the skul departments due with the billions and billions dat weese already given them. build new houses and kars for the skul committees

Tuesday, April 24
CrickeeRaven

I gess tha kidz lernt nuthin over the past 10 yers wid all those moneys we gibbed them.

[I'd say not to encourage the make-believe "mayor," Justanidiot, but I'm sure he'll be along any time now to regurgitate his statements.]

Tuesday, April 24
richardcorrente

It's noteworthy that only Karen Bachus cares enough about the taxpayers to vote against this newest demand for more money from the School Committee.

It's also noteworthy that the Warwick school system is down another 150 students.

Folks, something HAS to change. We can't continue on like this. There is no accountability from the School Committee (SC) with the exception of Bachus. That's not working. And Testa is right. $1.7 million extra dollars (from the taxpayers wallets) "could" get us 17 more teachers, but it won't. It "could" get us 900 Chromebooks, but it won't. It "will" get us more administration; maybe another new "Asst. Principal of Climate and Culture" or another new "Asst. Principal of Teaching and Learning" but I don't think there is a taxpayer, parent, teacher or student that believes any extra money WILL be spent on ANYTHING that benefits our students like a new teacher or one more Chromebook. If David Testa or any other member of the SC truly wants what is best for Warwick, he/she should support an independent audit from an outside source. The SC could pay for it with all the money they saved from cancelling their failed Public Relations firm contract.

OR... at least put a system of checks and balances in the new $40 million dollars bond request that "allegedly" is to be spent on renovations for our schools. Have a "Clerk-of-the-Works" (like they have in Massachusetts) watch guard the spending of that $40 million and I will openly and actively support the plan. Leave it out and I will openly and actively oppose it.

The SC has a very poor public image. They wouldn't have hired a PR firm if they felt otherwise. Here's an honest and inexpensive way to improve it dramatically.

How about it? Anyone?

The 80,000 taxpayers that are paying the tab are watching. I have committed my campaign to them for the last three years. Don't you want to improve your image to them?

Happy Spring everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Tuesday, April 24
Scal1024

Rick, if you cared about this city you would stop lying to people in an attempt to boost your failing political career.

Its funny that you say you care about this city so much. You claim to be an advocate for taxpayers and students. It is all about you Rick and how you think you're better than others.

Let me ask you something: If you commenting on this website was truly about caring about the city than how come you never commented until you were running for mayor? Did you not care about the schools back then? Did you not care about the taxpayers then? Why is it you didn't start taking an interest in other peoples accomplishments until you decided to try and scheme your way to office? Or was that back when you were endorsing Stacia Huyler (Petri) claiming that you were a member of the tea party? Its hard to keep track the way you lie and pander through the campaign.

Now that news is breaking that Mayor Avedesian is stepping down, I can't wait for some other candidate to embarrass you. You won't be able to claim I work for the mayor then either. It will be another Corrente lie exposed and added to the list.

Tuesday, April 24
Kammy

Corrente loves to comment from the comfort of his own (banks?) home but I never see him getting his hands dirty. Are you around for city clean up days? Fundraising events? Polar dips?

Pretty easy to run your campaign in the comment section. After today's announcement of Avedisian stepping down, you are really going to have to up your pace. Or better yet, another candidate, one actually qualified to run a large city, will step up and you will then have quite a race on your hands.

Tuesday, April 24
Scal1024

Good news is in my opinion Kammy today marks the end of Corrente's campaign. I'm sure there are many qualified, serious candidates willing to enter this race. ANY of them will make a better, more qualified mayor than the pathetic uninformed, unqualified Rick Corrente.

Today was a great day for anyone who wants to see a serious candidate succeed Mayor Avedesian. I look forward to a serious campaign, with serious proposals and not slogans, talking points or campaign signs littered on public property.

Tuesday, April 24
davet1107

Mr. Corrente,

I can't believe that I'm breaking my own promise to myself to no longer engage you with respect to schools. With respect to "accountability" and those which SC members have or want more of it, I'd respectfully state that Ms. Bachus proposed, in addition to the needed Math Interventionists, a full complement of Department Heads at the Middle School (an approximate $1mm endeavor), three additional reading specialists (approx $100K per), and additional elementary guidance counselors (approx $100K per). So if those were approved and our request increased an additional $1.5mm, would that constitute "accountability' in your eyes? As for bond monies, you allege but offer no proof whatsoever - not a scintilla - that bond funds were not spent on capital improvements or otherwise misspent. Again, the SC simply cannot spend bond funds as it sees fit. All projects have to be submitted and approved by RIDE and the Council controls any release of funds. Also, if you bothered to do any research at all, additional Vice-Principals at the Middle Schools are not because of some whim on anyone's part. With the 6th grade moving up, the populations at those schools will be very close to those of our High Schools where you will find building administrator ratios to be the same as what they'll be at the middle schools next year with these additional two VP's. So if these are somehow superfluous to you, then why wouldn't you be calling for an elimination of one VP at each of the high schools? And for the umpteenth time, the school'd budget is audited every year, by a third party auditor that is selected by the City, not the School Committee. With all due respect, sir, you simply have very little understanding of schools, their governance, operation, and challenges, and simple demographics.

David Testa

Tuesday, April 24
CrickeeRaven

Hello again, Kammy, Scal, and Mr. Testa:

Thanks to all of you for again exposing the make-believe "mayor's" complete inability to restrain himself from posting his pathetic statements.

As Kammy rightly notes, the make-believe "mayor" is doing nothing beyond commenting on the Beacon in service of what will absolutely be another losing campaign.

Scal, I think you are correct, that the minute a serious, intelligent, and honest candidate enters the race, the make-believe "mayor's" campaign will be effectively over. And just as certainly, he will be the last person to realize it -- but not before even more thoroughly humiliating himself.

And Mr. Testa, the facts that you correctly explain have been presented to the make-believe "mayor" on multiple occasions, only for him to ignore them. I expect that your latest attempt to set the record straight for him will end the same way, and I base that prediction on witnessing his behavior for the better part of two years.

Please be assured that there are far more honest, taxpaying voters in Warwick who understand how the school budget works [and can debate the relative merits of a budget proposal intelligently] than the make-believe "mayor's" antics would indicate.

Tuesday, April 24
richardcorrente

Dear Kammy,

As a matter of fact I did!

I attended the Polar Dip and gave free coffee and hot chocolate to all the participants (just ask "Presto Strango Coffee".)

I joined the Friends of Warwick Ponds to clean up Oakland Beach. I personally donated $500 to the Four Seasons Fire Victims Fundraiser. I attend almost all School Committee meetings and City Council meetings. I've been to several VOWS chopsticks auctions and many other church auctions/fairs.

I've counted fish for the Buckie Brook Coalition. My son and I helped plant 33 trees at Oakland Beach last fall. I have donated my time and money to many charity events at Christmas, at Easter, and during summer events, and most recently I sponsored Debbie Rich at Mentor RI's "Dancing With the Stars." And as far as fundraisers I have attended dozens! Don't you remember criticizing me for it?

As far as "running my campaign from the comment section", are you kidding? I campaigned actively for 700 days in a row and spent $40,000 of my own money. Didn't you see me waving from the street corners, passing out literature in parking lots, putting up signs, and knocking on doors all over Warwick? I know you have Kammy. I have been one of the most active candidates in the history of Warwick.

700 days in a row - $40,000...Can you name ONE candidate that came even close to that? Ever?

I didn't think so.

Happy Spring Kammy.

Happy Spring everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Wednesday, April 25
richardcorrente

Dear Kammy,

As a matter of fact I did!

I attended the Polar Dip and gave free coffee and hot chocolate to all the participants (just ask "Presto Strango Coffee".)

I joined the Friends of Warwick Ponds to clean up Oakland Beach. I personally donated $500 to the Four Seasons Fire Victims Fundraiser. I attend almost all School Committee meetings and City Council meetings. I've been to several VOWS chopsticks auctions and many other church auctions/fairs.

I've counted fish for the Buckie Brook Coalition. My son and I helped plant 33 trees at Oakland Beach last fall. I have donated my time and money to many charity events at Christmas, at Easter, and during summer events, and most recently I sponsored Debbie Rich at Mentor RI's "Dancing With the Stars." And as far as fundraisers I have attended dozens! Don't you remember criticizing me for it?

As far as "running my campaign from the comment section", are you kidding? I campaigned actively for 700 days in a row and spent $40,000 of my own money. Didn't you see me waving from the street corners, passing out literature in parking lots, putting up signs, and knocking on doors all over Warwick? I know you have Kammy. I have been one of the most active candidates in the history of Warwick.

700 days in a row - $40,000...Can you name ONE candidate that came even close to that? Ever?

I didn't think so.

Happy Spring Kammy.

Happy Spring everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Wednesday, April 25
Kammy

If you have then that is GOOD NEWS! You are most welcome for the push I gave you to get your self out there, hands dirty and do something other being critical of those running the city other than the WTU. I am glad that I was able to help you become a better citizen Richard. You are most welcome!

Although I have to correct you on one point. I haven't seen you on waving at me as I drive by, nor knocking on the doors of my neighborhood, nor walking the street. The last time I saw you out and about campaigning was prior to the 2016 election at the Dave's parking lot.

But again, you are most very welcome. I am happy that I was able to help you make a positive change.

Happy Spring Richard

Happy Spring Everyone

The Citizen Taxpayer but not the fake mayor

Wednesday, April 25
CrickeeRaven

Kammy, you certainly deserve credit for inspiring the make-believe "mayor" to actually apply some effort to things other than running free political ads on the Beacon's comment boards.

Still, isn't it strange that he counts his "700 days campaigning" [which were not actually 700, nor does he explain what he means by "campaigning"] and his spending of $40,000 -- double the amount spent in 2006 for only 20% more votes -- as positives?

For all his claimed activity, in the end, he lost the election. He stopped paying for advertising in late 2016 and, as you rightly point out, instead used the Beacon's website to continue to promote his candidacy.

And for all his bluster and shameless self-promotion, your point still stands: He has no chance of winning this year.

Wednesday, April 25
richardcorrente

Dear School Committee member David Testa, (AKAdave1107),

First, thank you for using your real name. It shows respect for others as well as yourself.

As far as your comments, they are too complex and are going in several directions at the same time.

I'll make my observations simple.

The public doesn't trust the School Committee. The City Council doesn't trust the School Committee. The teachers and the Teachers Union don't trust the School Committee. The parents don't trust the School Committee. The students don't trust the School Committee. I don't trust the School Committee. No one that I have spoken to in the last two years trusts the School Committee. That's why they/you hired a public relations firm. That is the School Committee's basic problem. I've attended almost every School Committee meeting. You have seen me there. No member of the audience speaks highly of the School Committee! Do you know why? They don't trust you! (plural).

Here is an opportunity to change that David and you can be credited for introducing it.

Put a "Clerk-of-the-Works" in the current $40,000,000 bond request. (That's sort of an auditor for this one project only; an independent someone to watch all monies spent to insure the taxpayers that the money is being spent as it should). If you do, you will increase your chances of getting the voters to approve the bond request. As I have said, if you do, I will openly and publically support the bond. If you don't I will openly and publically oppose it. Whatever my influence is, large or small, wouldn't you rather have me speaking FOR it, not AGAINST? What have you got to lose? Nothing. What do you (plural) have to gain? A better image. More cooperation from the taxpayers. Better PR with the parents, teachers, and students. Much more respect from everyone. If you want to discuss it call me at 401-338-9900. If the School Committee truly wants to repair the schools, there is nothing stopping you from giving this kind of assurance to the 80,000 taxpayers that are paying the tab.

Think about it Dave. Talk it over with Finance Director Anthony Ferrucci. I spoke to him about it as well. Thanks again for having the courage to respond as School Committee member, David Testa.

Happy Spring sir.

Happy Spring everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Wednesday, April 25
richardcorrente

Dear Kammy,

I enjoyed your comments. I appreciate the "push" you gave me too.

If a get-your-hands-dirty-for a good-cause event comes up just call me at 401-338-9900 and I will be there to help.

Thanks again.

Happy Spring Kammy.

Rick

Wednesday, April 25
CrickeeRaven

David Testa, don't waste any more time and effort responding to the make-believe "mayor."

In reply to your reasonable and factual explanation of school operations, he still demands that you do things his way after admitting that he simply does not understand what any other reasonable, logical person would learn from your comment: "[T]hey are too complex and are going in several directions at the same time."

Fortunately, the make-believe mayor lacks any restraint in his own comments, and plainly sets out the many defects with his reply.

In his mind, the Rhode Island Department of Education and his party's 9-0 council majority [who approved the $40 million bond request after actually listening to the school department's presentation] can not be trusted to provide the oversight that they are granted by the law.

Also, his self-promotional bluster aside, he is for all intents and purposes a political nobody -- making his question of "wouldn't you rather have me speaking FOR it, not AGAINST?" a further sign of his delusional view of himself.

The school committee has explained its plan for the bond money well enough to get approval from the city council; contrary to the make-believe "mayor's" delusional statements, voters are already smart enough to decide the question on its own merits.

Wednesday, April 25
bendover

memo to dick corrente; NEWSFLASH: In case he gets struck by lightening, that is the only way Joe Solomon will not be the next Mayor, for better or for worse...SO, you may return to your Haight-Asbury induced delusion about being "mayer" and keep your day job, whatever that is....Current on all your taxes, local , State and Federal? HAPPY DAYS.....

Wednesday, April 25
CrickeeRaven

bendover, someone really needs to sit the make-believe "mayor" down and explain reality in just aa stark terms as you did: He is going to lose against Joe Solomon; his campaigns have been futile and proven nothing but his utter and complete unfitness for office.

Wednesday, April 25
Thecaptain

I'm going to comment as Richard Corrente (MAYOR DUMBNESS)

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And I also

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But in reality what I really did was I failed to pay my fair share of taxes while using city services, squat in my house and stop paying the mortgage, remain for 2+ years rent free while not paying my utility bills, bilk the city out of $27,000+ in tax payments, $500.81 in utility payments, then I was forcibly evicted from the premises, while during the same time period I was the defendant in numerous small claim civil actions (loosing every one) but also during that time period when I was tax delinquent, I loaned myself $40,000 to run a failed campaign where I never actually researched 1 scintilla of documents, but I stood on the street corners waving to people. I then paid off the person who purchased my tax liens from my campaign account and I continued to litter the city with illegal signs that I erected on state and city property in direct violation of campaign laws. Please vote for me as I think that everyone is a fool that I can persuade.

Thursday, April 26
CrickeeRaven

Hello again Thecaptain:

I eagerly await the inevitable defeat that the make-believe mayor will soon suffer at the hands of Council President Solomon in the expected Democratic primary, due to exactly the facts that you so effectively outline.

Perhaps the most satisfying part of Council President Solomon entering the race is that he, by virtue of his position as acting mayor and actual leader within the local Democratic Party, will rightfully earn all of the attention that the make-believe "mayor" has desperately tried to get through his antics.

Thursday, April 26