EDITORIAL

Budgetary blues

Posted

Those in the know of how negotiations between school and city officials are actually shaking out are understandably keeping their cards held close to the torso this week following yet another meeting regarding the ongoing budget crisis that was held Wednesday.
We feel that “crisis” is an appropriate word regarding the school’s inability to balance its budget and the ongoing disagreement between those who feel the schools got themselves into this mess and those who say the city has chronically underfunded the schools for many years and such management is finally coming home to roost.
While it is encouraging that both sides continue to meet, next week, when the city council and school committee meet on Monday and Tuesday night consecutively, will reveal a much clearer picture as to how much closer – or not – these meetings have brought the two sides towards an accord of some kind. Judging from the perceived differences of opinions that linger and the sort of offers levied thus far, we believe they remain unfortunately distant from the kind of compromise that may be needed to avoid a lawsuit.
On the city’s side, you can’t exactly argue that they were being unreasonable in not immediately acquiescing to a request for $8.1 million at budget time for the schools when the city could only raise about $5 million through new tax revenue by law. However, one could argue that such an ask was not only a symbol of the school department’s difficult financial situation – made more difficult by a significant loss of state funding – but was also a message to the city.
That message? The cost of education is constantly rising, and not even declining enrollment and closing schools can overcome level funding or given tiny increases in budgetary funding year to year. Since 2010, schools have seen a near net zero increase in total funding contribution from the city. City spending, however, has increased by as much as 30 percent since 2010.
While the easy scapegoat argument seems to be that the school administration has mismanaged the budget and wasted dollars on unnecessary expenditures, there hasn’t been much substance put forward in the way of objective facts to support this serious claim.
Despite all of the noise, a fiscal and programmatic audit undertaken by the school department (as a preparatory step for a possible lawsuit to seek more funding) has thus far provided the only objective look into the operations of the school department, and it showed that the only thing truly out of whack about how much Warwick spends per pupil stems from how much it pays its teachers, which is significantly higher than comparable districts.
Unless other facts come to light, the inflammatory arguments – like the district over-spends on administration (the audit revealed that, comparative to like districts, they don’t), or they have bankrupted their budget by purchasing air conditioners for administrators and doorstops that don’t damage doors (both costs are financially insignificant to the overall budgetary need that is present) – need to come to an end.
And yet we seem to sit at an impasse where the city doesn’t trust the schools and the schools are tired of being ignored or criticized in the city council chambers with thinly-veiled or outright vocal claims that they are hiding money or otherwise misleading people about their financial situation.
It is a situation that is good for nobody – not taxpayers, property owners and especially not for the students and faculty working within the schools. These problems are creating real issues in the schools, not the least of which being that most schools can currently only be cleaned and sanitized every other night as we head into peak flu season due to the loss of seven custodians who were laid off to help balance an impossible to balance budget. Those custodians who remain deserve praise for their dedication against the odds to do what they can to keep the situation from getting even worse.
You would have to be mentally or emotionally disturbed to believe that anybody who got into the education field would purposefully allow children to become sick or even risk their health in order to stubbornly make a point about a lack of funding while they secretly held the answer in the form of millions of dollars hidden underneath a mattress somewhere. The schools need more money, and there’s really no avoiding that reality.
We sincerely hope that the city and schools can come to an agreeable arrangement that allows this situation to be resolved not only this year, but moving forward as well. Our students, our custodians, our teachers, our parents and every taxpaying citizen deserves as much.

Comments

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richardcorrente

When the author of the above well-worded editorial said "The schools need more money, and there's no avoiding that reality." He/she was wrong. Or blind. Or a member of the School Committee. (David Testa)

The facts are:

1. Warwick Taxpayers gave the School Committee $165million dollars+- (Over one and a half BILLION since 2009)

2. Their need was based on a certain number of students, teachers and school buildings.

3. All THREE categories, students, teachers, and school buildings decreased significantly in the last year. "Need" decreased significantly, therefore logic dictates that so should "money spent."

4. Logic dictates that there should be millions left over. There isn't. There is a multi-million dollar shortage.

5. No INDEPENDENT audit was made. A very-biased one yes, but no INDEPENDENT audit was made.

6. I openly accuse the School Committee of blackmail/extortion. They keep giving MORE money to the school administration and LESS money to the teachers, students, and buildings. A person would have to be "mentally or emotionally disturbed" to believe otherwise.

The good news is that all sides are still talking. I applaud their efforts. From communication comes solution. Godspeed.

Happy Autumn everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Thursday, October 11
Justanidiot

hows come a genius like master mayer is never taken seriously. his astute mind can cloud any situation

Thursday, October 11
Bob_Cushman

The article states, "City spending, however, has increased by as much as 30 percent since 2010". In 2010 city budget expenses were $113,417,566. the 2019 budget is $150,932,468 for a 33% increase.

However that percent does not tell you the whole story. I more important figure is to look at the growth in local tax dollars allocated to the city budget over the same time period. In 2010 that amount was $78,525,638. For schools the amount was $123,968,468.

Today the city amount is $112,067,997 for a total increase of 42.7% or $33,542,359 increase.

Today the school amount is $123,982,963 for a total dollar increase of $14,495.

Thursday, October 11
CrickeeRaven

The two-time election loser once again humiliates himself through his willing and repeated false statements.

His first three points are meant to establish a premise that is fundamentally untrue.

More than 90 percent of the school budget is spent on salaries and benefits for teachers and other staff; the actual number of teachers has not "decreased significantly," as the recent program audit accurately reports -- and in addition, a majority of the remaining teachers are at the top step in salary, meaning there has been no decrease in "money spent" after the recent school consolidation.

"Logic dictates that there should be millions left over."

Ignoring the factual and objective information provided in the recent program audit is not logical, nor are the conclusions that the two-time election reject is suggesting.

"No INDEPENDENT audit was made."

The school department is audited by the same independent third-party firm that reviews the city's books, and the results are published every year on the school department website.

The two-time election reject is also willingly confusing the annual fiscal audit with the recent program audit, which was conducted under state law according to educational standards.

Ignoring this information and insisting that the program audit was not "independent" because the two-time election reject does not like the results is not logical.

"I openly accuse the School Committee of blackmail/extortion. They keep giving MORE money to the school administration and LESS money to the teachers, students, and buildings."

This is a lie. The recent teacher contract added several million to the school budget over three years, with $5 million of this year's $8.1 million increase represented by teacher salaries.

That is not "less money to the teachers."

"A person would have to be 'mentally or emotionally disturbed' to believe otherwise."

It is too much to hope that the two-time election reject is finally admitting why he so willingly ignores objective and verifiable facts that prove every one of his statements wrong, and continues to repeat those statements -- but that statement could very easily be applied to him because of his behavior.

Honest, taxpaying voters are having a happy autumn knowing we were 100% justified in rejecting his candidacy again on Sept. 12 and further proving why his make-believe title is only one example of his complete unfitness for any office.

Friday, October 12