October 24, 2014
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$4.3M trimmed to balance school budget

The School Committee approved $4.3 million in cuts Tuesday in order to adopt a balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2013.

Chief Budget Officer Anthony Ferrucci explained the committee was scheduled to vote on a budget at its June 18 meeting but it was tabled to allow the school department time to find additional cuts, as the recent adoption of FY 13 budgets by both the City Council and the state resulted in a loss of projected revenue when the city level funded schools and state aid was less than projected.

“The City Council approved level funding going forward to 2012-2013. This resulted in a reduction in revenue of [approximately] $4.2 million,” Ferrucci said. “Using the state’s projected enrollment for 2012-2013, determined in mid-May using March enrollment data, resulted in a reduction to revenue of $148,281.”

To account for the reductions, several moves were made. Fifteen teacher cuts were made in the area of salary and fringe benefits, five more than what was originally budgeted, for an approximate savings of $418,000. An additional $100,000 was saved through adjusting breakage in other support personnel to account for proposed staffing reorganization, as a result of the elimination of the marine science program.

In addition, Ferrucci said cuts were made in professional development substitutes “based on projected surplus being higher than currently budgeted.” Ferrucci explained that as part of the school department’s contract with First Student for busing, the district’s fleet of 27 buses was to be replaced by buses provided by First Student. Since the buses were supposed to arrive in January, Ferrucci had budgeted to account for the approximate $400-per-day per bus cost, with about $200 going to drivers and aides and the rest to pay for use of the bus, but the buses didn’t arrive until June, meaning Ferrucci only had to pay $200 per day for drivers and aides. He said in October, when he has final surplus numbers, some of that money will be used to restore professional development substitutes. These moves resulted in a total savings of $646,000 in salary and fringe benefits.

Ferrucci said David LaPlante, interim director of buildings and grounds, was able to secure “significant budgetary savings” by locking in future pricing for natural gas, diesel fuel and fuel oil for the 2012-2013 year, resulting in a savings of $264,400.

Another $500,000 was cut from the budget by eliminating a request for math series textbooks, which will be considered next year, however the literacy series textbooks at a cost of $425,000 was included in the budget (purchase of the English language arts textbooks was later approved by the committee in the meeting).

Further savings were realized by moving some building projects out of local operating dollars to be funded through bonds.

“Given the communication that the city administration is going to work with the school department in putting forth a resolution to the City Council to fund capital projects for the 2013-2014 school year using bonding authority, we are recommending items be moved to the city bonding request,” Ferrucci said, addressing the committee.

The largest ticket item in capital projects, at approximately $9 million, is bringing the district’s buildings up to fire code. The department plans to complete the project over three years, spending about $3 million each year, beginning with phase 1 this summer.

Ferrucci said the administration recommended moving $1.6 million of the $3.3 million for fire code work this summer to the bond request, as well as $465,000 for roof work at Park Elementary and $65,000 for an elevator project at Winman.

Ferrucci said savings were also realized in the technology department. He said additional equipment needed for the computer room move from the administration building on Warwick Ave. to the former John Green Elementary School building, budgeted for FY13, was no longer needed as the move was completed in FY12, saving $60,000. He said an additional $208,000 in proposed wireless costs was removed from the operating budget since the state approved budget included a $20 million bond for a statewide wireless initiative, of which Warwick is projected to receive $2 million.

Committee Vice Chair Patrick Maloney questioned what would happen if the bond doesn’t go through and Warwick doesn’t receive the money.

“Can the school department afford to do the work if we don’t get the state bond,” he asked. “If it comes down to putting in wireless and putting in fire codes, I’m making sure the fire codes get done, so at what point do we say [to the state], ‘This is a great wireless initiative, but you didn’t give us money for it, so we’re not doing it?’ I’m the tech guy and I don’t want to say that … it’s the open-ended question.”

Ferrucci said he’s anticipating the state bond will cover the cost, but if that doesn’t happen, he said it will be included in discussion with the city during the city bond request process.

The proposed cuts amount to a total reduction of $4,384,381, resulting in a $156,092,357 school department operating budget for FY13. The committee unanimously approved the administration’s recommendation to have a balanced FY13 budget.


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