December 21, 2014
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School budget gets cool reception
Matt Bower and John Howell

The Warwick School Committee can expect a lot of questions now that it has approved a $160.6 million budget that represents a $1.3 million increase in spending and asks for another $3.8 million in city funds.

But while the committee can count on many questions, it’s unlikely to see additional city funding based on initial signals from City Hall.

Mayor Scott Avedisian, who going into the school budgeting process says he was told that schools expected to be level funded, was dumbfounded.

“Well that certainly makes me wonder when the superintendent says one thing and the committee goes in a different direction,” he said in an e-mail yesterday.

The mayor’s chief of staff, Mark Carruolo, was equally perplexed.

“Based on all our conversations with them, we expected a level funded budget,” he said yesterday.

As the city recently completed a revaluation and those values will be used in setting the tax rate for the fiscal year starting July 1, it is impossible to calculate how appropriating an additional $3.8 million to schools would impact the rate. However, based on current rates, the added money would require a 40-cent increase in the residential rate, Carruolo said.

Schools are not all the city has to budget for.

Carruolo said the administration is in the throes of budget preparations. Increased spending is being projected for pensions, salary step increases and capital expenditures, including police cruisers, sanitation trucks and reconstruction of the City Hall bell tower. He said the administration plans to get a budget to the City Council by May 14.

As for the school budget, Carruolo said the department appears to be operating on a “rolling” budget. He noted that late last year schools realized they would be running a surplus for the year, so rather than creating a reserve, they amended their current operating budget by adding programs and expenses.

“They decided to pre-spend early savings,” he said.

Carruolo thought that action would weigh heavily on how the mayor and council view the school request.

The mayor was noncommittal.

“All things will be considered as we move forward in the budget process,” he said.

At Tuesday’s School Committee meeting, the committee unanimously approved a $160,625,627.24 budget for fiscal year 2014, which is $50,000 higher than the recommended budget presented to the committee for approval.

According to the recommended budget, the school department was expecting a $3,803,408 increase in local support dollars from the city side. That has now increased to $3,853,408.

The budget was amended at the request of Jennifer Ahearn to include the additional $50,000 for a half-time math support teacher at the Warwick Area Career and Technical Center.

Ryan Mullen, supervisor of math and science, explained that a number of students involved in the voc-tech program scored 1’s on the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) test and did not pass. In order to graduate, they must retake the test and score higher than a 1. A NECAP ramp-up course has been set up to assist those students in improving their scores, however, some of those students also need to pass certain math courses and are unable to participate in the ramp-up course. The math support teacher would be brought in to assist those students who are unable to take that course.

“Some kids that got 1’s need to take college-bound math and would miss the NECAP ramp-up,” Mullen said.

Rosemary Healey, director of human resources and legal counsel for the school department, said the position could be difficult to fill, which is why she would look for a step 5 level teacher, which translates to a $50,000 cost in salary and fringe benefits.

Although several motions were made to increase the budget by other means, the amendment for the math support teacher was the only one to pass.

During department budget presentations, it was revealed that the varsity athletic locker rooms at all three high schools are badly in need of repair. In a list of initiatives not included in the recommended budget, compiled by Chief Budget Officer Anthony Ferrucci, refurbishing all locker rooms was listed at a $45,000 cost, so Ahearn moved to amend the budget to add $45,000 to address the locker room situation.

“I believe that if I don’t want to be in the facility and don’t want to shower or spend time there, then I don’t think our kids do either,” Ahearn said.

Before the committee could vote on the amendment, Director of Buildings and Grounds David LaPlante said $45,000 “is nowhere near enough what we would we need to fully refurbish locker rooms at all three schools.”

Dennis Mullen, director of secondary education, suggested refurbishing one locker room each year, adding that to do all three at once would involve at least a six-figure number in terms of cost.

“We need to be more comprehensive,” Mullen continued. “For example, if we repaired the lockers but the roof caves in, then that could flake on the lockers.”

LaPlante said his department started with general upgrades and painting of the locker rooms last year, but he said much more work needs to be done, as they are at least 40 to 50 years old.

“They’re in need of locker replacements and shower tile replacements. And if we re-do the showers, then we would also have to make them handicap-accessible, which they weren’t when they were designed initially, so it adds up quick,” he said.

Paul Jansson, assistant director of buildings and grounds, said he visited the locker rooms at Warwick Vets and Pilgrim and estimated it would take at least $500,000 for the main locker room at Vets and $125,000 to $150,000 for the varsity room (a bit more at Pilgrim). He estimated it would cost $375 to $400 per individual locker.

“Doors are falling off, tiles are coming loose … it’s beyond repair,” he said. “I wouldn’t recommend fixing the lockers until we fix the roof first; it leaks like a sieve. It’s all part of the capital improvement plan.”

LaPlante explained that there are a number of projects the department planned to address using money from a $25 million bond approved by voters in 2006 but which has not been released by the city, apart from approximately $300,000 to be used to complete work to bring buildings up to fire code slated to take place this summer. Traditionally, the city has paid principal and interest on bond money, but Ferrucci said those payments are coming out of the school department’s operating budget as part of debt service.

School Committee member Karen Bachus suggested tabling the amendment until the Buildings and Grounds Department could look into the issue further and determine exactly what it would take to do the work that is needed.

“Don’t you think the mayor and City Council would be interested in hearing about the condition of the locker rooms for students so they could release the [bond] funds to address the situation?” committee member Eugene Nadeau asked, who was concerned the issue might be tabled for a year.

“We will have to revisit this budget and readdress the situation once it’s passed because we don’t know how much money we’ll get from the city,” said Committee Chairwoman Beth Furtado.

The motion was tabled.

Next, Nadeau made a motion to add $69,000 into the music department budget, $23,000 for each high school, for the express purpose of being used to tune and upgrade instruments.

“We’ve been to the concerts and we’ve been blessed with musical talent in our programs, but the instruments need tuning,” Nadeau said. “We have instruments in the orchestra and instruments in use that cost $2,000 to $3,000 that have never been tuned.”

Although Dr. Anne Siesel, assistant director of curriculum and supervisor for music and art, was not present at Tuesday’s meeting, it was revealed during her budget presentation that she increased her equipment non-technical line item by $62,000, with the intention of that money being used to tune and upgrade instruments as far as it would go. Over the past few years, that line item had been budgeted at $7,000 to $8,000 but was increased to $69,000 in the current budget.

“Two years ago, Gene and I fought to get that extra money for them [music department] and I’m glad to see Dr. Siesel included that, but I think we need to look at and consider other departments because we’re educating the whole child,” said committee member Terri Medeiros.

Superintendent Dr. Richard D’Agostino added that the department has purchased five electronic pianos and has plans to move further in that direction to eliminate the need for tuning such instruments.

“Instructors have also assisted students in tuning other instruments,” he said.

The motion failed by a 3-2 vote.

Ahearn made another motion to add a K-12 science supervisor. Presently, Ryan Mullen, the math and science supervisor, handles those duties even though is background is rooted in mathematics and is less familiar with the science realm.

“There’s a learning curve with regard to the science portion,” he said.

“I completely believe that it’s a very overwhelming task for the director [Mullen] to coordinate material for secondary and elementary for math and science,” Ahearn said.

“We have science kits in the elementary schools and department heads at the secondary level; I’m not sure we need another administrative position right now,” Medeiros said.

“With all due respect, we should move to put department heads back into the junior highs before we put someone into science,” Bachus said, which was greeted with audience applause. “We have other issues to address, such as reading.”

That motion also failed by a 3-2 vote.

In other committee action, a resolution supporting same-sex marriage was passed. Bachus explained the intention of the resolution was to join in support with the City Council, which passed the same resolution April 8, “in letting people know this is a safe place, the city is a safe place, kids are safe here, and to prevent any bullying that goes on.”

Although the resolution passed, it was amended, at the request of Nadeau, to strike language at the end that would have the decision on legalizing same-sex marriage made by the General Assembly, and to instead put the matter before the voters.

“I want to vote ‘yes’ on this,” he said. “I agree with everything in the resolution, but the only reason I will not vote for it is if it does not go before the public for a vote.”

Nadeau’s amendment was approved 4-1, with Bachus abstaining.

Before adjourning the meeting, it was announced that two public hearings on the closure of a junior high school will be held at Warwick Veterans High School, 2401 West Shore Road, Warwick, in the coming weeks. The first will be on Thursday, May 2 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. and the second will be on Tuesday, May 7 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Following the hearings, a vote on school closure will be held at Warwick Vets on Thursday, May 9 at 6 p.m.


Comments
49 comments on this item

The School Committee/the School Department Heads/School Staff-they need a reality check. Warwick is losing population; the Warwick School System's enrollment is SHRINKING.

Get your long term planning committee to schedule meetings to make some decisions-Warwick can no longer afford to have 3 junior & 3 senior high schools. Have your meetings & start planning on one junior high & one senior high school to close by the beginning of the school year that begins September, 2014(it's OK if you delay closing a junior high until then- Aldrich or Gorton). Based on this article, the Warwick School Committee/School Department appears to be in denial-with student enrollment getting smaller & with the apparent major cost improvements needing to be made(fire upgrades/locker repairs & iimprovements/doors & roofs falling apart) there appears to be almost NO CHOICE but to close a junior & a senior high school-unless the School Committee wants to SUBSTANTIALLY REDUCE what school program offerings Warwick has for students. These decisions CAN NOT be delayed any longer!

Incredible.....Avedisian castigating the School Dept for not controlling school spending.....the school dept has been level funded for years yet my taxes continue to increase every year.

What about the overtime spending in your fire dept Mayor.....why haven't you done anything about it ? Oh, pension costs are increasing...what a surprise with the generous benefits you have bestowed on the unions Mayor.

The taxpayer expect no tax increase this year.

Reality. I guess the school department can do no wrong. Spend their surplus on things a payout to the former superintendent, contracts with raises for all employees and adopting a budget with no savings from closing a jr. high which is a no brainer. Reading your past comments about spending in general I'm surprised you're giving the school department a pass.

Knox.....I don't give the school dept a pass......I think Ms. Healey should have been fired years ago......my point is Avedisian has no credibility when it comes to finances after what he has done to the city. Ten years from now we will be getting out of bankruptcy that Avedisian caused by his reckless spending and benefit giveaway.

He did do something about overtime. Hired 32 guys. Get out from under that rock reality.. Still haven't stated your occupation...

So wait a minute...We need to hire a part time teacher, to the tune of $50K, to do the job of a full time teacher wee already pay for? Something in the water smells funny.....

Steve.....until you get up at city hall and speak in front of taxpayers as I continue to say....you have no credibility.

You can't argue the fact the city spending over the last five years has resulted in the residental and commercial and motor vehicle tax increases over the last five years, not school spending. Now that doesn't mean that school shouldn't continue to cut costs, they should. However if the city budget mirrored the school budget taxpayers would not have had to pay annual tax increases over the last few years.

What am I supposed to speak about? I'm not he one with questions... Until you give me your name and occupation you have no credibility. You already know what I do for a living... Bob, spending needs to be addressed I don't disagree with you. Overtime in the FD has been addresses.

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Can someone explain to me what possible interest the school committee has in the gay marriage issue? Evidently they feel that the education side of the ledger is pretty well set so they can devote time to resolutions like this. I eagerly await future resolutions on other burning social issues like abortion, guns, immigration. Maybe theyll even branch out to the potential use of chemical weapons in Syria. This is laughable and does not do much to burnish their image to the public. For decades the schools have suffered neglect because of deferred maintainence. this has occurred during the tenure of many superintendents (some of whom are revered and some of whom are reviled), school committees, City Councils (few of which have ever been friends of the schools) and one or two Mayors. There's plenty of blame to go around for the conditions of the schools and it's all equally deserved so we can't point to just the current people in charge. Its not rocket science - at some point the bill comes due for everything that you put off.

I agree that all spending throughout the city needs to be looked at. It is time that elected officials put a hold on excessive spending but avoid deferring expenses that may cost us more in the future. While we need to take action, we cannot continue to blindly approve or cut expenses without determining what the ramifications may have on our city’s future.

My gratitude goes out to the School Committee for not considering Mr. Mullen’s “wish list” for at least another five administrators that he was unable to include in this year’s budget proposal. With that said my concern for the validity of this budget intensified when the original estimate for repairing the “varsity locker rooms” went from $56,000 to a second estimate of six figures or up to a half a million dollars. How do numbers change so quickly? What are these numbers based on? It appears that the school department’s figures lack substance.

Before we start closing schools, bussing students for up to 45 minutes each way to and from school, at a negligible savings, not to mention a decrease in the market values of our homes; could we at least make sure these numbers are correct? Mr. Mullen has used two separate sets of numbers to determine student population levels in two different presentations. In addition, when asked which schools would go where Mr. Mullen said that had yet to be determined but once the Short Term Planning Committee notes were published, the bussing estimate only included one scenario. Oakland Beach, Lippitt and Park would be bussed to Winman. Sherman and Warwick Neck would then be going to Aldrich. If bussing fell into a different configuration might this not change the cost?

Please let us stand together as a community, contact your elected officials and demand not only honesty, integrity and transparency but accuracy from the people we pay to represent us and our agencies.

Steve D.....the structural problems in the fire dept haven't been solved, they have been passed on to my grandchildren via the federal government. Only a fireman would think that bloated dept.is running well.

Hey Stevie.....noticed the proposed new fire house that will eliminated the East Greenwich fire dept making calls in Warwick will use a platoon from another fire house without adding additional staff. It makes the case that min. manning has been abused by the fire dept. for years. Steve did you also note that in Coventry they a thinking about privatizing the rescue personnel that will save the taxpayers millions. Warwick should do the same.

Your comparing Warwick to coventry. You must have done no research about call volume etc. if you had any brains you'd realize that the rescue system I'm Warwick makes a ton of money billing insurance companies. Private companies will keep that profit. Do some research. They have been talking about a station in potowamut for years with existing man power. What's the big deal. I know your education about the ire department is extremely small because you have no clue about the correct terms. Platoon = 46 guys. Crew on the other hand is 3. Go back to your tea party friends and keep complaining their should be 3 or 4 of you left....

Your full of hot air Reality...

Steve D.....you'll notice he always demeans people....typical union tactic but he never answers the questions like how much could Warwick save by privatizing rescue personnel. Private companies will keep the profit....laughable at face value considering how much overtime the fire dept has run up.

Notice Stevie doesn't list the benefits the firemen get. What's a matter Stevie....you don't want the public to know.

Your answers Stevie are so ridiculous they don't deserve any future answers. The excessive cost of the fire dept speaks for itself.

I did answer your questions. I don't think you realize how stupid you sound so ill let you continue to ramble on. I don't need to list any befits as they are all on the city web site. If you find the private company that will provide scum service for no profit pleas let me know because the world is coming to an end. Face it your a joke.... You are the one that just hasn't figured it out yet. Every time I press"post comment" I laugh at you. I can see Bob's points, and many other with whose I often disagree with. You are just a one sided idiotic mouth that is all talk but no show. Occupation? Ill take a stab, probably a welfare leech.... Or a 1 percenter that says screw he middle class. Either way your a joke. I'm laughing as I press it...

I meant rescue, not scum. I do apologize...

Stevie D. never let's you down. He takes the lead from the union playbook. Demean the messenger.......tries to associate the messenger with an organization like the tea party but never answers the questions like why is the fire dept always over budget? He won't tell you what their benefit package is because he knows if the taxpayers knew they would be furious.

Now expect another tirade from Stevie D that says nothing and none of the issues will be mentioned. A true union hack.

Yes our benefit "package" is so secretive... So secretive that its on the city website... I've answered any question asked of me. Here's a question you will never answer. What's your occupation? If you consider that question "demeaning he messenger" you've really got issues.

The Mayor was "noncommittal"? It has been reported that Warwick has had NO growth in its tax base over the past 3 years, the school population is heading in one direction, DOWN, the water usage rate is DOWN, an indication of stagnant to no growth or more likely, an increase in abandoned and foreclosed property, and the Mayor is NONCOMMITTAL.? What kind of leadership is this?

I also notice many of the others that usually comment never rush to your side because they all know your a hack...

@SteveD. That's a productive comment. All mind, sorry to say, are factual. This city has been in a downward spiral and Avedisian has shown that he is NOT the one with the ability to get us out of it.

Roy at least you have information that helpful to the discussion. Bob is the same way, I often disagree with him, but atleast makes a point. That hack reality only yells and never ever makes a valid point...

HEY STEVIE D, ARE THESE SALARIES ACURATE?? THATS YOU AT THE TOP OF THE LIST. JUST A SMALL TID BIT. WHATS INTERESTING IS THE RESULTS THAT YOU GET WHEN YOU CROSS REFERENCE THE FIRE. DEPT. PERSONELL WITH THE CRIMINAL BACKGROUND WEB SITE.

DIMUCCIO STEPHEN Firefighter (Grade 1) 69,036

DOAR PHILIP Firefighter (Grade 1) 69,703

DUCKWORTH BRIAN Firefighter (Grade 1) 71,706

ECCLES JUSTIN Firefighter (Grade 1) 63,360

ERKKINEN ANDREW Firefighter (Grade 1) 69,036

FARIAS MICHAEL Firefighter (Grade 1) 69,036

FRANCIS SETH Firefighter (Grade 1) 69,703

FRENCH KYLE Firefighter (Grade 1) 69,036

GIBLIN THOMAS Firefighter (Grade 1) 63,360

GRASSI BRIAN Firefighter (Grade 1) 69,036

GREENWELL JOSEPH Firefighter (Grade 1) 72,374

HENRIKSON CHRISTIAN Firefighter (Grade 1) 69,703

HORNBY JOHN Firefighter (Grade 1) 72,374

IAMARONE SCOTT Firefighter (Grade 1) 69,036

INGEGNERI BRANDON Firefighter (Grade 1) 69,036

JENSEN SCOTT Firefighter (Grade 1) 69,036

KAPALKA STEVEN Firefighter (Grade 1) 69,036

KING DAVID Firefighter (Grade 1) 69,703

LEMAY NORMAND Firefighter (Grade 1) 69,036

LIBRIZZI CHRISTOPHER Firefighter (Grade 1) 69,036

LLOYD WILLIAM Firefighter (Grade 1) 69,703

Stevie D.....after being shocked with the salaries, I can't wait for you to list the benefits. Do the salaries include overtime ? You would think Warwick was sitting on an oil well. Great job Avedisian watching out for the taxpayers...........

If Mayor Avedisian is doing such a bad job and the city is sprialing downward then I think there would have been so many challengers there would have been a massive primary to see who would run against him. He didn'teven have a democratic challenger. The fact there was no challenger speaks volumes.

Those councilmen who have been on the council for over 10 yearsand critize the Mayor are a joke. Either could have got the dem nomination and run. They didn't have the stones. Are there problems, sure but I haven't seen anyone better to lead then the Mayor.

That's not me. For the record, I am not Steve Dimuccio.

Fenceman, what's the results with your criminal search. Don't throw stones if your not gonna back it up.

That salary is too high to risk our lives every day? You guys haven't listed your occupation.

I am very interested in your criminal search, seeing as "by law" you can't have a criminal background and have a RI EMS license that we all have so your information must be real accurate.

Stevie D......still can't answer the question why we overpay the firemen.....we are waiting for you Stevie to get up at city hall and explain? Show some guts Stevie.............

I'm not answering a question about your opinion. I don't believe we are overpaid. Stop by and do a day of what we do!!!!

If I understand Mr. Ahearn's position, we need an additional administrator to supervise fewer and fewer teachers, who teach fewer and fewer kids, at an every escalating cost, OK, go it. And btw, why even think about renovating facilities at Pilgrim when everyone knows the school will not be operating as a school within four years. At a per-pupil expenditure of over $16,000 (yes, $16,000 per pupil), taxpayers are not getting their money's worth. The city would be much better off offering vouchers to every high school age kid worth $10,000 to use at whatever public, private, or parochial school they wish. Kids would have the opportunity to attend the school of their choice and not be penalized by geography, the money would follow the kid and not the beaurocracy, and the city would save money.

Steve D....I would love to spend a day at the fire house.......passed one yesterday on post rd and 4 of the boys were sitting on an engine's bumper working on their tans.....saw the Lt. today in Beacon fixing meals at the club house.....guess he stopped by the supermarket to pick up the food....what a tough life.

Yes we are all that's wrong with this world. God forbid we eat lunch, a healthier one at that....

Y

StevieD,

When you cross reference the names with the criminal data base there are 65 names that come back with criminal records, 71 from DPW. Granted in some cases there are similar exact names that require further clarification. But to suggest everyone is a shiny clean hero is a stretch. By the way, salaries and employees is public record. If you woul like the entire list, just say the word and you shall have them.

StevieD,

When you cross reference the names with the criminal data base there are 65 names that come back with criminal records, 71 from DPW. Granted in some cases there are similar exact names that require further clarification. But to suggest everyone is a shiny clean hero is a stretch. By the way, salaries and employees is public record. If you woul like the entire list, just say the word and you shall have them.

All I'm saying is that there are no Warwick fireman with felonies on their record. Under state law you can't hold an EMT license with a felony. Thus making the requirement that ALL fireman maintain EMT licenses while employed with the city. Don't throw out a number like that without backing up your info. That's all I'm saying. If your going to make public the info that you say 65 Wfd members are criminals I would like to see the proof. I'm telling you you are wrong....

I love how you guys threaten to release public information. Still waiting for the false info fenceman. I hope I'm on the list because I've never ever even been stopped by the police. I'd love a defamation lawsuit...

Fenceman,

I'm looking for your false derogatory report. It's great when you throw out a false fact that 65 of us are criminals. I just need the proof you say you have.

Again StevieD, It appears that you are not smart enough to read the comment, yet you interpret it as you want it to be heard in yout head. The comment said "When you cross reference the names with the criminal data base there are 65 names that come back with criminal records, 71 from DPW. Granted in some cases there are similar exact names that require further clarification." Try it yourself.

Now as far as your comment that you cant get an EMT license with any criminal record "its the law". What law. Please state the statute

(ie RIGl 44-34-11) . You are wrong. when you take the class at CCRI no background check is performed. By the way, that info was confirmed from both CCRI and the state firemarshall office.

Please state the statute.

WRONG AGAIN STEVIED

"The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) will deny certification or take other appropriate actions in regards to applicants for certification or recertification when a felony conviction has occurred. Decisions affecting eligibility will be based upon the following categories. Applicants may appeal decisions made by the National Registry as outlined in the NREMT Disciplinary Policy."

Anyone can take the class idiot. You need to be certified nationally. Do a little research please..

I'd also like to see your false list of our 65 criminals on the WFD...

http://www.nremt.org/nremt/about/policy_felony.asp I provided my info.... Seeing as you haven't given any names ill take that as you don't have any real information...

Now its a felony, you keep changing your statements. Where is the statute? What about misdemeanors? Just run a few names StevieD. See you at the budget hearings, your coming out party.

All the names I ran came back empty. More hot air from you...

Again

SteveD skews the facts.

#1. Its not "LAW" as you previously stated its "Policy.

#2. The crimes are limited that will cause EMT certification denial.

#3 The policy is discretionary as the policies own words state

"Discretionary Denial"

Applications for certification by individuals convicted of any crimes including DUI, but not including minor traffic violations may be denied after consideration of the following factors:

The seriousness of the crime.

Whether the crime relates directly to the skills of out-of-hospital care service and the delivery of patient care.

How much time has elapsed since the crime was committed.

Whether the crime involved violence to, or abuse of, another person.

Whether the crime involved a minor or a person of diminished capacity.

Whether the applicant’s actions and conduct since the crime occurred are consistent with the holding of a position of public trust.

Steve, you do know what discretionary means dont you? Where is the " LAW" ?

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