September 21, 2014
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Committee to consider school cuts

The Warwick School Committee will look at alternatives to trim its budget by an estimated $3.4 million this evening, but don’t expect any action until well after the start of the new fiscal year.

“It’s a working session. They’ll be looking at staffing,” Superintendent Richard D’Agostino said Tuesday when asked what the committee would do when it meets this evening starting at 7. Much of the meeting will probably be conducted in executive session, as it deals with personnel.

The 2014 Fiscal Year starts on July 1 and by state law, schools are required to have a balanced budget. As a practice, the city enters the year with a balanced budget, although in the course of the year, it may encounter unanticipated expenses such as costs relating to a blizzard, or because of savings end up with a surplus.

While the City Council approved a $157.2 million school budget, which is about $437,000 more than what Mayor Scott Avedisian recommended, the amount is still $3.4 million shy of what the School Committee approved in May.

D’Agostino did not identify specific programs the administration is looking at as possible areas for cuts. In general terms, he said the administration is looking at cuts across the board, including “support, technical areas and PE [physical education].” He did not say sports or athletics, which can be a hot button as evidenced from prior years when hundreds turned out to oppose cuts to the program.

Personnel are key to balancing the budget.

D’Agostino said 10 staffing positions would have been eliminated had the committee followed the recommendation to close Gorton Junior High School. Closing the school was projected to save about $1.1 million.

He said in compliance with its contract with the teachers union, pink slips were issued in March. The terms of the agreement allow the administration to notify 40 teachers but lay off no more than 20 in a given year.

In addition, D’Agostino pointed out that about 15 teachers retired this year. He said that many of those positions would need to be filled, although there will be savings from “breakage” where incoming teachers are paid less than those who are retiring on the top step. Also, there may be some instances where the job is not filled in addition to the layoffs.

James Ginolfi, president of the Warwick Teachers Union, said yesterday that the administration has already started “recalls,” although he could not say how many teachers have been notified. He also said that, as of Tuesday, teachers receiving layoff notifications started filing for unemployment benefits.

“There’s no guarantee of [them] coming back,” he said.

It’s questionable how much the department would save with layoffs anyway. As the department does not take a percentage of pay for unemployment compensation, those qualified for unemployment are paid by the state fund. However, the schools must reimburse the state for the payments.

D’Agostino said he hasn’t had any discussions with the Warwick Teachers Union regarding how they could help address cuts. He noted teachers are in the last year of a contract – it expires in August 2014 – adding, “it behooves everyone to start negotiations a little early and examine what systems and what the kids need.”

Ginolfi reiterated what he said about the closing of Gorton. He opposed it on the basis that it was a short-term reaction to a bigger problem – declining school enrollments – that requires a long-range plan.

“Our door is always open,” he said,” and we would be willing to sit down and talk.”

D’Agostino lamented the process of making budget cuts.

“Whatever we could save, we tried to save,” he said of the budget the administration presented the committee.

The superintendent called tonight’s meeting “a working session” without any votes. He expects the committee to make cuts at its July 16 meeting.


Comments
36 comments on this item

I think a good place to start would be looking to move the current healthcare/dental co-pay from 20% to 25% across the board. This will force the city to look at doing the same thing. 25% is still a great deal compared to private industry. It should be noted that the Teacher union and WISE union have helped in the past with the school deficit and can not be expected to make up the entire difference. Some cuts are going to happen in the classroom.

Healey put the schools in this position and let her figure out the answer. She should have figured it out before she gave out the last contracts.

If you believe that Rosemary Healey is the reason cuts need to be made then do you also credit her completely for the multimillion savings the schools have had in the last 5 years? Do you credit her for implementing the 20% co-pay across the board saving millions? No one person is responsible for the problems or the solutions. It is not likely that if Healey is let go that by magic all the problems of Warwick schools will be solved. These issues were created over many years and the schools are doing their best to resolve them. If only 10% of the $30 Million additional annual revenue (tax increases) went to the schools instead of being taken by the city, they would have more choices. Unfortunately, the city kept it all for themselves.

@pat Maloney. When will it end.. You all complained that we need to pay 20%. We do,. Now it's "they need to pay 25%. It will never end. Btw my healthcare in my previous job was free in the Private Sector.... With healthcare, pension increase and social security increase its like a 15% total pay cut...

Hi Steve. I guess it will end when the schools can get the city to actually support them financially instead of screwing them each year. I didn't complain that you needed to pay 20%. I complained that the city wasn't funding the schools properly. The solution was to raise the co-pay. There are no discretionary funds left, it is all allocated to bills that go up each year. The only things left to cut are ALAP, Sports and music. I am not saying the unions need to pay 25%. I am saying everyone who wants to keep their job and have great benefits should pay 25%. I would guess that the last time you worked in the private sector it was 10-15 or more years ago, at that time, many companies were growing and healthcare was free for most people. Unfortunately, healthcare became more of a business and less about helping people stay healthy and with that came exorbitant bills. Private sector was forced to make employees pay bills to not go bankrupt. The public sector has caught up with the private sector in this way and cities/ schools must change too in order to not go bankrupt. If the city or schools go bankrupt it would not be good for anyone.

So, I'm not against you, I am not after your money, I don't like that this is happening but the fact is, in order to keep the schools open, the money has to come from somewhere and it certainly isn't coming from the city.

Next time the city screws the schools in a budget, would you and other members of the unions show up to support the schools? As you can see it does effect you. People did not show up, the city screwed the schools, it's employees and the kids.

I hear a lot about large tax increases and the city keeping all the money. I remember that that part of the taxes increases were to off set cuts in state aid. I recall revenue sharing and the most of the motor vehicle phaseout being eliminated. What state aid to education was eliminated or reduced?

I am now convinced that Gordianknot is on the staff of the mayor or city hall and you are his "public relations person" on the beacon forums. GordianKnot, would you like to meet for coffee? I'll buy.

Mr Mahoney, I understand why you don't want to answer my question becuase it doesn't support your arguement so you ignore it.

I was critical of the School Committee for ratifing contracts with salary increases. Last year you said the surplus would cover the wage increase in FY13.

However since that expense was funded through a surplus which was declining you created a structural deficit for FY14. Brillant!

This year a compounded amount was budgeted. Between last year and this year I think the additional cost was over $2 million. I'm sure the kids could use that. Maybe the teachers will forgo the increase to help the kids. Sadly, partialy due to the teachers lobby we have 3 junior highs at less than 50% occupancy while Cranston has more students and 2 junior highs.

gordianknot a few questions for you to answer or explain.

Why has 30 million gone to the city side and only 500,000 to the schools for increases over the last 6 years.

why does the schools pay 6 million less in medical than the city side but the schools have more workers.

why has the new contract for the fire and police not been posted on the rhode island municipal contract web site.

Is it true that the police and fire received $4000 in a tax free health account for the next 3 years which is 12000 for taking 3 years of 0%

Is it true if they don't use money from the health account they can spend that money any way they want.

Gordianknot,

For the record, Cranston has three junior high schools and I believe two of them have populations comparable to what ours are. Also, the extra $30+ million the city half of the ledger has grown Over the past several years is not primarily because of cuts in state aid and the car tax phaseout. They need those extra dollars to fund pension and healthcare costs, which are exploding and will continue to swap future budgets. Health care costs for retires alone is a staggering number.

Here is your answer to the question, " I remember that that part of the taxes increases were to off set cuts in state aid." You remember wrong because you only know what the media reported and that is exactly what the Mayor told the media to print.

Next your answer to what state aid was eliminated or reduced. The federal government sent stimulus money to each state that was supposed to to distributed to each district. Providence got about 50% while the rest of the state shared the rest... BUT, the state did not actually send the stimulus money to the districts. They did the exact opposite. The cut state funding to schools and supplanted the federal aid to schools in the state budget. They also allowed each city in the State to cut funding to the city for 1 year by 5%. THEN, after they said it would only be one year, they went back and said it would be forever. The reason you heard no outcry from school districts in 2009 when funding from the state was allowed to be cut to the schools is because it was to be only for one year and the schools were willing to make the sacrifice believing everyone was making the sacrifice.

You can not quote me on something I did not say. I did not say the surplus would cover the salary increases, I said the change from junior high school weighting from 2.0 to 1.5 for special education children combined with locking in the healthcare co-share of 20% would cover the cost of the teacher salary increase, and it does.

I was not on the committee when the new committee members voted to give an increase to the WISE union. I never would have voted for that knowing they still have time in their contract. You can thank Karen Bachus, the Union rep voted onto the school committee. She voted for the WISE union salary increase only 18 days after being elected to the school committee. I believe she had not even sat in a school committee meeting yet. She had to thank all the members of the WISE union who held signs for her at the polling places and who donated to her campaign. Check her campaign finance reports to see this is the truth.

Thank you dirtypool and davet1107 for the additional questions for gordianknot and your info. You can not IGNORE $30 Million additional taxes annually going to the city. Here is a question for you Gordianknot. How much have other cities increased taxes in the last 5 years compared to Warwick? And of those increases, what percentages have gone to the city and what has gone to the school. I'll still buy you that coffee.

To completely answer your question above, the State effectively allowed the cities to cut the school budgets BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE THE GUTS TO CUT THE BUDGET THEMSELVES EITHER, by allowing the city to lower the memorandum of effort (MOE), 5% which is $6.2 Million for Warwick. So, the city KEPT the $6.2 million for themselves, increasing their budget immediately by $6.2 Million, then raised taxes each year so now they are $30 million more annually but we must remember they also have the initial $6.2 million stolen from the school budget effectively making the city budget $36.2 million more annually. In total, the schools have lost out on approximately $25 Million over the last 5 years because the gutless wonders at the state house allowed the cities to cut funding and the mayor and city council, always ready to take advantage of a situation felt they needed to put the screws to the schools.

By the way, if you feel that you would like to not blame the tax increases on the "cuts to state aid", you can always use the Mayors next best excuse... there was a flood and so he needed to raise taxes for that.

MOE should have been Maintenance Of Effort not memorandum of effort, my apologies.

Mr. Mahoney......Healey has been at the bargaining table for over 20 yrs with the teachers union and did nothing to stop the excessive giveways. The copay of 20% took a long to get with the teachers. She has done nothing to eliminate the 90 sick days teachers get or the lousy clause that allows the administration to lay off only 20 teachers.

How about the hiring of Len Flood and Horoshack....her fingers are all over those disasters.

Since I have been studting the city and school budgets over the last ten years here are the facts on the cuts in STATE AID to the city and schools:

This information cmes straight from the City Budget documents submitted by Mayor Avedisian and his staff.

Revenue change 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 Total

Property Tax $3,129,445 $9,092,896 $2,376,067 $1,041,029 $14,269,793 $2,546,908 $3,185,000 $35,641,138

City State Aid -$653,772 -$2,130,032 -$3,484,589 -$11,265,477 $166,832 $72,573 -$628,767 -$17,923,232

Property Tax allocation to the city budget have increased by $35,641,138 since 2008.

State Aid to Warwick was cut $17,923,232 since 2008.

Concilusion: The city has risen propety taxes by more then twice as much as the cuts in State Aid.

During the 2011/12 fiscal years the city took a huge hit when state aid was reduced by $11,265,477. However as Mr. Maloney stated the city reduced the school budget by 5 percent or $6,839,071 and increased the local property tax allocation to the city budget by $14,269,793 to cover the cut in state aid and allow for an additional $3 million increase in spending.

Another point of reference in 2009 State Aid to Schools was reduced by $8.9 million and the local property tax allocation was $0.

Bottom line is that since 2008 the Warwick School Department spending has decreased $1,080,732 while new spending in the city is $12,172,074.

The city supplemented local property tax dollars to cover ever dollar cut by the state. The same cannot be said for schools and as Dave1107 stated, most of that money has gone toward legacy costs associated with pension and retiree free lifetime healthcare expenses.

Here are the State and local reveue allocation to the schools:

-------------------------------- 2008 ------ 2009 ---------2010 ----------2011 --------2012 ----------2013 ---------2014 ---------Total --------

Property Tax revenue $4,938,472 $0 $5,903,641 $1,041,906 -$6,839,071 $473,329 $0 $5,518,277

State Aid $0 -$8,901,923 -$1,598,560 $1,298,249 $4,831,913 $2,174,129 $540,981 -$1,655,211

Keep in mind the job in property tax dollars in 2010 and 1022 is attributed to federal stimulas money that passed through the city and then onto the schools.

Sorry for the mis-spelling and the numbers not lining up. This site makes it difficult to format numbers into columns.

If anyone is interested in reviewing the budget numbers in a graphical format please post this link into your browser:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6P1sIPd4PTdZHY1TE5WUmgzYWs/edit?usp=sharing

still waiting for my answers from the knot. Must be a spin coming

Dirty pool. The contract hasn't been posted because it was just signed after a year of back and fourth corrections. There is absolutely no truth to the $4000/12000 health account idea you are talking about, never heard of it.. Where do you people make this stuff up?

Then its ready to be posted on line after a year of corrections. The mayors staff must be to busy posting while working. (markyc). I have no issues with the firemen or the police getting your bennies you deserve every penny. I want to say thank you for all you guys do. My issue is with the mayors office playing with the numbers and blaming the schools for over spending and wanting more cuts. Just like the city the schools need more funding 500,000 does not cut it for either side. The mayor has 0 kids in warwick schools and his chief of staff markyc kids go to st kevins.

It will be ready for online publication ASAP as far as I know. Its a shame it took a year to print a document. Just think its funny when random stuff like a 4000$ healthcare bonus are thrown around. You will see in the contract, there is NO reference to any healthcare bonus. We didn't get anything for 0% raises for three years. Actually with a 20% healthcare co pay and a 16% pension contribution and 2% more in SS our paychecks are down between 80-100$ a week. Not complaining just telling the facts for all of you who think we are rich...

Steve I am assuming that the poster is referiing to the $4,000 provided to each married Police officer and $2,000 to each single officer into a Health Savings Account.

Over the three year contract Police officers who are married will receive $12,000 into their account.

The Fire and Municipal unions, according to the Mayor's staff at budget hearing this year told me that those unions did not want that provision for their healthcare benefits.

Thanks Bob. Didn't know that....

Total cost of this provision is $1.8 million over three years. In fact the Active Police Healthcare budgeted line item was $600,000 over budget in the 2013 fiscal year. At the budget hearing the administration stated that they saved 18% with this new provision but in reality the cost increased from the $2,765,543 million budgeted to $3,410,733 projected cost, or a 23% increase. The $600,000 attributed to the HSA is the reason.

The 2014 cost is budgeted at $3,276,892 or 18% over the 2013 budgeted amount.

Bottom line the administration totally screwed up the healthcare contract by switching from a self-insured program to fully insured and not doing a proper analysis of the cost assoicated with provided Health Saving Accounts at a $2000/$4000 single/married per person cost.

But the city always manages to get the money needed to plug the millions of dollars it goes over budget while the schools make real cuts to programs and service to reduce their budget by millions.

90 Sick Days for teachers... a MYTH that I have explained over and over. No one reads the contracts. Have you read the contract? Teachers don't actually get 90 sick days, this is a myth. They get 90 "sick days" until they are outright fired. They get about 2 weeks of sick time each and that is right in line with private sector. In the private sector, if you are out for more than 2 weeks, you can go on TDI, your job is protected, somewhat until you return. Teachers do NOT have TDI. Here it is in a nut shell again. The Beacon WILL NOT REPORT THIS SO HERE IT IS AGAIN.

All teachers share one pool of sick days, when they are gone, they are gone and any teacher who takes a day out must pay for their sub. If every teacher took 10-15 days out during the year, the pool would be empty. A teacher can take 90 days sick time before they are let go. If a teacher takes 90 days, that means 4 other teachers can't take sick time. Teachers don't pay into TDI so they get the "sick time" instead. No one wants a teacher out for 90 days but if a teacher had to be out because of cancer treatment or another life threatening illness, would you want them kicked to the curb or give them some compassion? The important part to remember is they share a pool, when the pool is empty, they don't get to take a sic day without paying for it. All teachers have approximately 12-15 days sick time each year. They don't all get 90 days sick time. They do get to take 90 days before we can let them go but that is the same as TDI. I know of only one or 2 teachers during the entire time I was on the school committee who took an extended sick leave. One was for cancer treatment, the teacher was glad to know she would have a job when she completed treatment and wasn't fired. The other didn't take the entire 90 days but had broken her leg severely and could not walk or stand for long periods of time.

It would be the same as if you and 4 co-workers had 15 days each and you pooled them. So together you would have 75 days between you. One of you gets really sick and needs more than the allotted 15 days. The rest of you decided you wanted to give the person a few of your sick days, SO THEY WERE NOT FIRED. In private industry you pay into TDI. Teachers don't have that option.

The 90 days is a myth. A teacher actually gets only about 2- 2.5 weeks of sick time before they have to PAY for their substitute. There is NO COST to the schools if every teacher took 2 weeks of sick time or if they took more because once they go over 2 weeks, any additional time gets taken out of their pay to pay for the sub. Sick time for all employees is budgeted and it never goes over budget because when the pool is empty, teachers pay for their replacement.

I hope this answers the question of sick time. I stated this in Sept 2012, October 2012, and November 2012 but the Beacon did not print it. Please read the contracts before posting erroneous information on the forums.

90 Sick Days for teachers... a MYTH that I have explained over and over. No one reads the contracts. Have you read the contract? Teachers don't actually get 90 sick days, this is a myth. They get 90 "sick days" until they are outright fired. They get about 2 weeks of sick time each and that is right in line with private sector. In the private sector, if you are out for more than 2 weeks, you can go on TDI, your job is protected, somewhat until you return. Teachers do NOT have TDI. Here it is in a nut shell again. The Beacon WILL NOT REPORT THIS SO HERE IT IS AGAIN.

All teachers share one pool of sick days, when they are gone, they are gone and any teacher who takes a day out must pay for their sub. If every teacher took 10-15 days out during the year, the pool would be empty. A teacher can take 90 days sick time before they are let go. If a teacher takes 90 days, that means 4 other teachers can't take sick time. Teachers don't pay into TDI so they get the "sick time" instead. No one wants a teacher out for 90 days but if a teacher had to be out because of cancer treatment or another life threatening illness, would you want them kicked to the curb or give them some compassion? The important part to remember is they share a pool, when the pool is empty, they don't get to take a sic day without paying for it. All teachers have approximately 12-15 days sick time each year. They don't all get 90 days sick time. They do get to take 90 days before we can let them go but that is the same as TDI. I know of only one or 2 teachers during the entire time I was on the school committee who took an extended sick leave. One was for cancer treatment, the teacher was glad to know she would have a job when she completed treatment and wasn't fired. The other didn't take the entire 90 days but had broken her leg severely and could not walk or stand for long periods of time.

It would be the same as if you and 4 co-workers had 15 days each and you pooled them. So together you would have 75 days between you. One of you gets really sick and needs more than the allotted 15 days. The rest of you decided you wanted to give the person a few of your sick days, SO THEY WERE NOT FIRED. In private industry you pay into TDI. Teachers don't have that option.

The 90 days is a myth. A teacher actually gets only about 2- 2.5 weeks of sick time before they have to PAY for their substitute. There is NO COST to the schools if every teacher took 2 weeks of sick time or if they took more because once they go over 2 weeks, any additional time gets taken out of their pay to pay for the sub. Sick time for all employees is budgeted and it never goes over budget because when the pool is empty, teachers pay for their replacement.

I hope this answers the question of sick time. I stated this in Sept 2012, October 2012, and November 2012 but the Beacon did not print it. Please read the contracts before posting erroneous information on the forums.

Thank you Bob cushman for your info. From one of your posts yesterday since 2008 new city spending is up $12.1 million when factoring in cuts to state aid.

Bob, do have have info on the school grant funding which doesn't appear in the school department's budget? I recall that they got a lot of federal stimilus money. How does the public know how those funds are spent?

I stand corrected on Cranston having 2 junior highs. From a school department presentation Cranston has over 1,000 less students and has something like 16 schools and something like 23. Hum, Warwick has less students but more schools.

Hi GordianKnot, School Grant funding is in the budget documents. I believe they are named, Title I, Title II and possible Title III Grants. They are about a page in length each.

As far as Warwick having less students and more schools, Warwick schools have closed or repurposed 4 schools in the last 5-6 years and there are plans to close a Jr High School. Those plans were interrupted by the city council who attended the budget meetings and said the schools should not close the Jr High. The school committee chose to postpone the closing hoping the city would fund the decision not to close. This didn't happen, the city council then chastised the schools for not closing the buildings. I expect they will close a high school after closing a Jr High.

Bob, how many buildings does the city have?

Patrick

City has 31 buildings which include city hall, libraries, fire stations, police station, public works facilities, ice rink and pool.

Schools have 26 buildings consisting of two administration buildings, the Drum Rock Early Childhood Center, sixteen Elementary Schools, three Junior High Schools, three Senior High Schools and the Career and Technical Center.

Thanks Bob. How many employees does the city have? How many vehicles does the city have that just drive in circles?

Reality. I think Rosemary Healey has too much influence on the Committee. I think she is the puppetmaster. The issue with the former superintendnet was mishandled and her legal advise to sue the city for $6 million proved to be wrong.

Take a look at the proprty tax bills that were just issued. On the bill is a breakdown of where those tax dollars you are paying will go, either to the city or the schools.

The breakdown is approximately 53 percent schools and 47 percent city.

Now if you have your bill from 7 years ago, 2007, you will see that the breakdown was approximately 64 percent schools and 36 percent city.

Bottom line is that city spending is increasing at unsustainable rates and it is not going to decrease.

The advise to sue the city for the $6 million was brilliant. You have to remember that at the time the school committee also instituted a 20% co-pay across the board to every employee, including teachers who were under contract. It proved to the unions we were willing to go to court. As a school committee member at the time, I didn't expect to win the lawsuit against the city for the $6 million. That would have put us in the same situation as East Providence and would have allowed us to go into all the contracts and change them completely (having proven in court that we didn't have the funds and we had done everything possible to get the funds.) The union knew that if we went to court and proved this they would have had to abide by the changes. The lawsuit against the city wasn't to get money form the city as much as it was a way to get the unions to the table for concessions. This resulted in a favorable contract for the schools with the WISE union who had not had a contract in 5 years. It created peace and gained the schools millions. It also led to the healthcare agreements with the teachers that eventually lead to millions in concessions. The suit against the city for $6 million lead to the school committee being to get nearly $4+ millions in concessions.

You don't know the issue with the superintendent so you can only speculate that it was mishandled. But think about it like this. He made $165,000, his contract was paid out in full to go away (and not sue for violating a contract). The Director of Special Ed took over for a small stipend costing the schools an additional $15K approximately. This director became the new superintendent the following year and a new Director was not hired so the schools are saving the full cost of this position. I don't agree that they didn't do a search for a superintendent, I think this person is doing a good job, but in the end over 2 years, they saved approximately $150, 000 in salary by having the previous superintendent go away and not filling the special education director position.

I did not vote to hire the previous superintendent, he was hired before I arrived. I did not vote to extend his contract in 2010, I wanted someone else at that time but was outvoted. I did not vote to extend his contract in 2012 this time I had enough votes to not extend his contract. I also voted to put him on leave and signed the contract to have him go away. I saw a great positive change inside the schools after he left. I saw forward thinking rather than reactions to issues. You always want someone in charge who is proactive rather than reactive.

I was on the committee for 4 years and when you have a good committee, the committee works well and doesn't need as much guidance. With an inexperienced committee (we have 2 new members, and 2 who were on for only 2 years) they need more guidance. Chris Friel, Lucille Mota-Costa, Paul Cannistra, and Beth Furtado were all great school committee members and we accomplished a lot during a short period of time. Terri Mederos and Eugene Nadeau learned a lot from 2010-2012 and worked hard. Everyone needs guidance from time to time.

I don't agree with every point of view Rosemary Healey has but she works very hard and doesn't make the decisions. She always presented 2 or more legal scenarios to the committee and it was the committees choice. She would present choices she said she was or wasn't in favor of and would say why, but it was ultimately the committees choice. It is not an easy job to be on a committee that is willing to not rubber stamp everything, I never saw anyone when I was n the committee rubber stamp anything.

Sorry, advice not advise.

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