November 28, 2014
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Schools, council head for budget showdown

It could not be determined yesterday whether the School Committee intends to amend the budget it requested of the mayor before coming to the City Council next Tuesday.

But unless there are some dramatic changes in the request, the committee is certain to meet some less than friendly comment.

Warwick City Council President Donna Travis described herself as being “livid” with the School Committee’s request for an additional $3.8 million in city funding.

“I see it [the department] as so top-heavy,” she said yesterday. “I don’t understand why they can’t do some consolidation.” Travis claimed members of the school administrative staff “have assistants to assistants.”

Further, she noted that the committee gave raises to the teachers, non-teachers and administrators while other city unions agreed to three-year contracts that froze wages.

“They found the money in their surplus and gave them a raise,” she said.

The committee will be before the council next Tuesday for the first of three scheduled hearings on Mayor Scott Avedisian’s $283 million budget. Of that amount, $156.7 million is earmarked for schools, with $118.6 million funded by the city.

The overall budget is an increase of $3.6 million from the current fiscal year, with most of increased payments to the city’s pension plans.

Last week Avedisian said he held discussions with committee chair Bethany Furtado and Superintendent Richard D’Agostino during his budget deliberations and that they assured him schools could manage with level city funding.

In his budget message, he writes, “I believe that this funding is adequate for the School Department to meet its Basic Education Program and any other obligations the system is committed to, especially in light of continued decline in enrollment.”

He goes on to say he believes the School Department has opportunities for savings, which he doesn’t name, that “should be re-invested into the school system to provide quality education for our children.”

Calls were made to School Committee members yesterday with

Terri Medeiros reporting that, as of that point, no decision had been made whether to amend their budget request.

D’Agostino could not be reached on the question of what areas of the budget would be considered for cuts should the committee choose to amend the spending package, or the council deny appeals for additional funding.

In preparing its budget, the School Department included the continued operation of Gorton Junior High School. Closing the school and sending students to Winman and Aldrich would have saved an estimated $1.1 million in annual operating costs. Last week, however, the committee voted to reject the recommendation to close the school, favoring an analysis of the full system and development of a long-range plan looking at declining enrollment, state mandates and how the department would respond if required to provide all-day kindergarten.

Travis argued to keep Gorton open.

She said yesterday she believed the department could balance its budget without closing Gorton. Her suggestion is for the committee to make cuts from the school administration.

“They just keep inflating their pay checks,” she said angrily. “I think everyone has had it with them.”

Travis said she wouldn’t be holding back on her criticisms of the department and that she expects the committee will resort to threats of cutting athletics and other programs with high levels of public support in their effort to increase the mayor’s budget.

“I think they’re going to play that game,” she said.

Travis said a majority of the council feels as she does and she would be surprised of any support to give schools additional funds.


Comments
2 comments on this item

I have always tried to be polite when talking with or about the council but enough is enough. I will no longer sit back and let certain members of the city council sling lies upon the citizens and taxpayers of Warwick. In particular, Donna Travis and Camille Vella Wilkinson and the lies about a "top-heavy"school administration vs city administration. They say the schools are top heavy and to get rid of administration to cater to the unions. It is politics as usual. They forget that these same constitutes have kids in school and they are tired of having their programs in jeopardy because of a lack of funding. They want more than the Basic Education Plan.

Here is some information about the school verses city administration. I believe the city has 30-32 administrators for approximately 900 employees. I will get the exact number. The schools have about 15-17 administrators for almost twice as many employees.

The raise for the administration was the first in 4-5 years and it was a total of only about $130K for everyone. Administration had been paying a 20% copay for at least 2-3 years by the time the received any additional compensation.

The raise for the teachers was balanced by the number of teachers retired and cuts in the Jr High school special education weighting (from 2 students to 1.5 Students at the Jr High Level) and locking in the 20% co-pay for teachers. The move for all employees to pay 20% copay saved the schools nearly $4 million annually. Remember there were several Million dollars in savings by closing and repurposing the elementary schools and through consolidation of administrator positions and lay offs in admin, teachers, and support staff.

With these changes, the increase to teacher salary was a wash. So, the school committee made the appropriate cuts to find the money for a raise. I can not speak to the raise for the wise union as I was not on the committee at the time.

I have always tried to be polite when talking with or about the council but enough is enough. I will no longer sit back and let certain members of the city council sling lies upon the citizens and taxpayers of Warwick.

Donna Travis says she is livid about the schools asking for additional funding. The schools ask for additional funding every year. 3-4 years ago she was livid that the custodians at night were cut from the staff, she was livid that the trash barrels in from of Winman were not being emptied properly. Was there additional funding to re-hire staff, no. She was livid when family and consumer science was cut from the curriculum. Did she vote for additional funding so the schools could keep it? No. She was livid when the Marine Sciences program was cut. Did she vote for additional funding so the program could stay? No. The Mayor states that after sitting with Beth Furtado and Dr D'Agostino there will be enough money for the Basic Education plan in the same sentence he says his budget will provide a Quality education. I am confused because I have never thought that basic could also be used to describe quality. Basic IS Basic and quality costs money. This school system will have a basic education plan not a quality education plan, any and all additional programs will be cut. Donna Travis WILL BE LIVID! It isn't a game Ms Travis, but apparently you think it is. When Warwick residents are lined up to sell their houses and get the hell out of Warwick, who will you blame? The schools? The remaining residents will be LIVID because they will be left holding the bag and that bag will be held open by you looking for more tax money. Wake up people, wake up the sleeping giant of warwick taxpayers and let Donna Travis and the council know how you feel. Schools should be the gem of the city and used to attract residents.

Donna Travis wouldn't know a good budget if she saw it and she hasn't seen a budget without tax increases for the city in every year she has been in office. No additional funding has gone to the schools in years. She has no problem voting for tax increases and she has voted for a tax increase every time Mayor Avedisian sends one her way. She says she only ratifies the mayors budget, the council has the ability to amend the budget, but do they have the guts to amend the budget? Usually not, will this be the year?

Donna Travis is an uneducated moron. How can anyone expect her to understand the fundamentals of educational needs when she lacks the basic education to be able to understand the concept? Does anyone not believe that her limited elementary education is a hindrance to her serving the taxpayer? Make no mistake, Donna Travis is for Donna Travis and the unions. Her voters truly show their education when they cast a ballot for her. She has been in office for 18 years and Oakland Beach is still Oakland Beach, quality of life has not and never will improve.

As far as Wilkinson is concerned, here is a real prize package. Look at her agenda, chickens in Warwick, the mayors bidding, hold no one accountable, let overtime sky rocket, turn your back to the constant theft in the city by the DPW, and blow smoke up the unions asses at every council meeting to increase your voter base. There you have it. Not to mention, the woman just is not that smart, period. Sure, she is in the best interest of the taxpayer.

Just remember these cast of characters voted to raise your taxes every time they had the chance, car taxes, property and business taxes. They voted against the dishonorable service resolution. They voted against a public hearing on the pension debt. They voted against a public hearing on the unfunded healthcare liability. And then, as if this wasn't enough, your illustrious alternative lifestyle mayor puts Donna Travis in charge to personally interact with the Pew Trust to figure out the pension crisis. She has no business dealing with financial matters since her own taxes have been either delinquent or past due for years. She cant even manage a household budget let alone a city budget or a pension plan.

This is the community that you get when morons elect morons. See the smoke trail on main roads? That's from the people fleeing Warwick as fast as possible.

We should erect signs at all entrances to roads leading into Warwick that say:

WELCOME TO WARWICK

OUR CITY COUNCIL IS MADE OF BAFOONS

OUR MAYOR CONDONES THEFT WASTE AND ABUSES

OUR TEACHERS CANT RECITE PREPOSITIONS

OUR SCHOOLS ARE FALLING APART

AND TRAVIS IS A DOPE

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