City offers $1.75M more to schools, but large gap remains

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The next saga in the Warwick school budget crisis has been written, but once again the future remains uncertain.

On Monday morning Mayor Joseph Solomon sent out a press release through his office reporting that the city had offered $1.75 million in additional funding to help address a $6.6 million deficit faced by the Warwick School Department. The funds, if accepted, would come from the $5 million line item for road paving that the City Council approved during budget hearings.

“Coupled with the $1.5million allocated by the City Council [during budget proceedings], the additional $1.75million will provide the School Department with over 40 percent of their [original] requested increased funding [of $8.1M],” Solomon said through the release.

He went on to point out that this funding should be able to be used to restore cuts made by the schools to help balance their budget, such as:

  • The Mentor Rhode Island program
  • Middle and high school sports
  • Payments to out-of-district providers of student Pathway programs
  • Payments to charter schools, out of district transportation
  • Retention of school bus monitors

Solomon additionally took the opportunity to provide a suggestion on how the school department could potentially recoup some more savings to go towards their deficit, saying through the release that, “in the School Department budget, Professional Management and Administrators are to be paid $4.62 million to 42 full-time positions at an average rate of $110,152.81. Only one position has been reduced in salary.”

“Solomon said that, given the costs associated with the 42 professional personnel of the School Department, additional cost savings could be realized through the restructuring of the Administrative Division, and suggested the savings be put back into the custodial and clerical positions, which contribute to the betterment of the students of the district and facilities,” the release continued.

Good start, but not enough

On Monday afternoon Superintendent Philip Thornton and School Finance Director Tony Ferrucci agreed that the offered allocation was a “good start,” but lamented that even if the allocation is accepted, the schools would still be facing a budgetary gap of around $4.85 million. On top of that was another issue.

“I think it’s a good start but I think the press release is not factually accurate,” Thornton said.

Thornton explained how Solomon’s assertion that the administration only being reduced by one salary was totally wrong, when in fact there are 5.5 entire positions within the administration not included in this budget compared to last year. This includes two principal positions from Wickes and Randall Holden (which are closed), a construction coordinator, a part-time advisory position within the curriculum department and two central office positions that have yet to be determined, but have been removed from the budget already.

Next, Thornton and Ferrucci explained how the money offered by the city wouldn’t be suitable to fund cuts mentioned in the press release for two reasons. For one, most of the items listed – such as funds for out of district placement, school bus monitors and sports – were never actually cut in the first place, merely proposed during the school committee’s process of approving and denying cuts.

Secondly, the money offered would only be enough to cover the principal and interest payments amounting to $1.75 million that the school department has, through school committee confirmation as of last Thursday, voted to officially no longer pay. That payment stems from a bond issued in 2006, and the schools have long cried foul over their shouldering of the debt payments.

“The P&I [principal and interest] is an exact match for that number. That would be a wash,” Thornton said. “All the other cuts still remain; that’s our reality right now.”

Ferrucci provided a list of every cut approved by the Warwick School Committee during a meeting in July that was necessary to close the $6.6 million gap and balance the budget. Doing so required steps such as cutting funding for the Mentor Rhode Island program, laying off 15 custodians, a guidance counselor and numeracy teacher at Warwick Vets, two librarians (one part time), an elementary social worker, four library clerks and two additional administrators.

These cuts also included slotting $500,000 into the “contingencies” section of the budget, which essentially means they will have to find that amount of money prior to the school year ending or they will face another deficit. The cuts also included a hopeful assumption the city might be able to get a waiver from RIDE that exempted them from paying $690,000 towards the state’s Pathways program. That waiver was not granted.

Thornton expanded that the $1.75 million offer could not go towards restoring cut programs such as Mentor Rhode Island because they have to address the budgetary shortfalls of highest priority first – specifically the nearly $1.1 million in known contingencies mentioned in the above paragraph.

All the $1.75 million does, in effect, is reduce the total deficit from $6.6 million to $4.85 million.

“I want to bring it back, but first I have to take care of what I have to take care of,” Thornton said in regards to restoring the Mentor RI program funding. On top of that, Thornton and Ferrucci both agreed that restoring custodial service would be a higher priority item than restoring mentoring, as the schools will be largely unable to be used after school hours due to the unavailability of cleaning staff.

Back to the Council

The offer, while not solving the budgetary problem, could be framed as a step in the right direction towards a hopeful compromise.

School Committee Chairwoman Bethany Furtado said on Monday afternoon that the school department has been approved to appear before a special meeting of the City Council on Wednesday, Aug. 15, and that she is available for meetings with the city administration any time prior to or after that date for any clarifications necessary.

“I look forward to meeting with the city council and the mayor,” she said. “We would appreciate the opportunity to explain to the council exactly what the state of our budget is…My hope is that we can resolve this matter in a manner that is fiscally responsible for all concerned.”

Meanwhile, the two consultants hired by the school department to conduct programmatic and fiscal audits of the department’s operations are continuing to work and should have reports ready to be released to the public by the end of the month. The possibility of a lawsuit to recoup more money remains, but for now the two sides are apparently willing to continue negotiating.

“It has been communicated for years that we would be at this crossroads. The question now is are we going to work together to come up with a solution or are we going to continue the swiping and finger pointing?” pondered Furtado. “I won’t. We need to lead by example.”

Comments

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richardcorrente

Taking from the road repair money to give it to the School Committee (SC) just because they ran out of the $163+-million they already received is seriously WRONG. Since 2009 the SC has cost taxpayers over ONE AND A HALF BILLION DOLLARS. Does ANYONE think the taxpayers got their money's worth? I don't. The SC closed schools and laid off teachers and the STILL ran out of money. What are they doing with it? Oh yeah. That's right. We can't ask. Warwick doesn't have a Home Rule Charter. If it did we could ask, even demand. Maybe Warwick SHOULD have a Home Rule Charter. I think so.

Happy August everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Tuesday, August 7
Thecaptain

Richard,

How come you never told us about the tax lien that you had on your office condo at 1050 Main St. (unit 16) in East Greenwich due to unpaid assessments in the amount of $4857.12 that was issued on Jan. 27, 2012 or the foreclosure of that unit that was issued on April 19th of 2012? Can you give us some details on this debacle? It just seems your trail of unpaid bills gets larger and larger.

Tuesday, August 7
Scal1024

Awaiting Correntes response to Captains question..............

(Crickets....)

Tuesday, August 7
CrickeeRaven

The make-believe mayor failed to properly punctuate his comment:

"They ran out of the $163+-million they already received" is seriously WRONG.

As in, that is a completely false statement. The school department didn't "run out of money."

What is running out is time for the make-believe mayor's campaign, which will come to a humiliating end on Dept. 12.

Tuesday, August 7
Cat2222

"The definition of insanity, is, doing the exact same thing over and over again, expecting a different outcome." You are still reading off the 2016 game plan and you lost. Most intelligent people would go back to the drawing board and formulate a new plan. It seems crazy that you not only are following a losing plan but you keep repeating the same incorrect facts over and over. You don't take direction or constructive criticisms very well, do you?

Wednesday, August 8
Justanidiot

How about we teach the odd numbered grades this year and the even ones next year?

That might get us close to catching up to parity.

Of course you will have to hire a fleet of $100K+ administrators to do this, so maybe it would be a wash.

Wednesday, August 8
MisterP

Here we go again. Getting off topic and talking politics. Why can't we just discuss the problem without the political pissing contest about Corrente?

Wednesday, August 8
CrickeeRaven

MisterP, I do hope when you complain about "talking politics" you're not referring to the response that proved his first comment to be false.

I also hope when you refer to "the political pissing contest" you're not referring to the commenters who have brought to light yet another tax delinquency in the make-believe mayor's past.

Because otherwise, one might think that you're trying to dismiss responses to the make-believe mayor made within the context of his campaign, which he continues to conduct, for free, on someone else's website.

Maybe you should direct your frustration at him for making such blatantly uninformed statements, instead of others who call them out, and at him for his tax delinquencies, instead of others who have exposed them.

Good luck, though, I don't expect that he'll do anything to keep from humiliating himself even further.

Wednesday, August 8
Thecaptain

Actually, I am starting to re-think this whole thing. Based on all of the documents that I have amassed, and based on the fiscal outlook of this city, I am now thinking that maybe we should vote for Corrente. The numbers, (and the actuaries) suggest that the only way out of this financial debacle that Warwick is in , is to claim insolvency. Logic would indicate that if we elect Corrente, based upon his fiscal past, the city would file for bankruptcy in about 72 hours after he takes office. Then the receivers would come in, rip apart the union contracts and unsustainable benefits, restructure the pensions, and put the city back on course sooner than later.

This could be a viable plan, based upon 177 Grand View Ave and 1050 Main St.

Wednesday, August 8
Justanidiot

How dare you say this is a political pissing contest!

It is a political sh*tt*ng contest. We all know which politician is full of the most crap so he will win.

Wednesday, August 8
Scal1024

MisterP I strongly disagree with your comment here. I understand that sometimes yes, the conversation does veer off topic (guilty as charged) but to suggest that talking "politics" has nothing to do with the money the schools are asking for, or to suggest there is no place for it in this debate is false. If that is your belief I would submit you haven't been paying attention for the last few years. Both sides play politics with this issue. Raises being given out before all of the information had been gathered was playing politics. So yes, this is a political discussion, because it has been for the last 2 decades.

Acting Mayor Solomon was in a no win situation. Give the schools the $6 million they asked for, he'd be called fiscally reckless. Give them nothing, get taken to court and lose. You know the saying about when you try to please everybody you end up pleasing nobody? I feel like theres alot of that at play here. Solomon tried keeping both sides happy and instead, the schools are complaining they were short changed, and the budget hawks are upset the $ was taken out of road paving (I agree with Crickee its not a good precedent to set). Acting Mayor Solomon will likely face MANY more budgetary issues if elected. Will he feel emboldened if elected to make the changes Warwick actually needs going forward (funding OPEB, meaningful pension reform, maintaining beaches/public parks, rebuilding the entire school system, create a 5, 10 and 20 year plan for the cities future so we have a blueprint of changes)?

Its up to voters to hold these candidates accountable for what they say, and for their record. If ANY candidate speaks on this website, using it as a free advertising platform, those candidates should be prepared to have their record and proposals questioned/challenged. That is not some unique idea MisterP. Perhaps going along to get along and not asking questions or just "staying on topic" has contributed to getting us into this mess in the first place. Too many candidates get away with blurting out nonsense and I'm sick of it! Sorry for expecting more out of a Mayoral candidate, but its not a job for just anyone to have. You are entitled to your opinion, I will just state again for the record I STRONGLY DISAGREE!

Thursday, August 9
Cat2222

MisterP: If RC can post his verbal diarrhea on this page then I am entitled to call it out for what it is. You didn't like everyone's RC comments so you posted something about it. I don't like RC comments so I posted about it. Why is your comment any different than mine?

Thursday, August 9
richardcorrente

Dear Cat2222,

You're wrong.

I am repeating my WINNING formula of 2016. My goal was to "Cut Taxes - Cut Spending". I campaigned for 700 days in a row and spent over $40,000 of my own money to rally the 80,000 taxpayers that are paying the tab AND IT WORKED!!! They spoke LOUDLY to their City Council-people and when Avedisian tried to raise taxes 29 times he was defeated each time. My plan WON! The taxpayers saved hundreds of thousands of dollars from eliminating those 29 new tax increases.

PLUS, I WON over 14,000 votes. My critics predicted I would receive less than 3,000. Why wouldn't I use the same game plan? I still feel the same way. THOUSANDS of Warwick taxpayers agree with me. You don't have to. You say I don't take direction or constructive criticisms well, but the opposite is true. I am FOLLOWING the direction of the 80,000 taxpayers that are paying the tab and as far as "constructive criticism", when and if you offer any I will gladly listen to it.

You and Cote and the rest of the unidentified critics should take your own advice. Attacking me with the non-credibility of a screen name with insults, lies, poison pen letters, and sign theft (over 100 to date. I notice that not ONE of Joe Solomon's signs have been stolen) hasn't slowed me down a bit. Yet you keep trying. Over and over. Expecting a different result. Isn't THAT the sign of insanity?

Happy August to all my critics.

Happy August everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Thursday, August 9
CrickeeRaven

See, MisterP? This is the kind of thing that you are implicitly supporting when you complain about how the rest of us respond to the make-believe mayor -- he just replies, again, with a list of false statements.

Cat, don't fall for his pathetic attempt to bully you. He's going to lose this race, and somewhere in his addled brain, he realizes it -- but he just can't restrain himself from making a humiliating spectacle of himself until the inevitable happens and he is defeated.

For the benefit of other readers, allow me to -- again -- thoroughly disprove his pathetic claims.

"I am repeating my WINNING formula of 2016."

He lost the vote, 65-35%. That is not a win.

"[W]hen Avedisian tried to raise taxes 29 times he was defeated each time."

This is a lie. The city council proposed 29 amendments to the budget that reduced it by $750,000 while increasing overall spending by $6.5 million.

"The taxpayers saved hundreds of thousands of dollars..."

This is a lie. The FY18 budget ended with a $4.2 million deficit that the FY19 budget had to cover as part of the state law-capped maximum tax increase that the city council approved.

As he has so often before, the make-believe mayor is lying about his role in the FY18 budget, the city council's actual votes, and the results of the last two city budgets, which are higher taxes and spending.

"sign theft..."

This is a lie. Political signs left on public property can be removed by anyone, at any time. Thecaptain has proven this fact, and the Warwick Police Department has confirmed it.

"non-credibility of a screen name..."

The make-believe mayor has given himself a fake title that he neither earned nor deserves -- and none of the facts presented are any less true because the people presenting them use pseudonyms.

"Expecting a different result."

By now, no one expects the make-believe mayor to do anything but make an utter fool of himself -- and he has willingly obliged, time and time again.

All of the commenters who have routinely proven the make-believe mayor to be a liar and tax delinquent expect that honest, taxpaying voters will reject him again this year -- the exact same thing we expected in 2016. It is a certainty that the result will not be any different from two years ago.

Thursday, August 9
richardcorrente

Dear Scal1024,

With no insults, I respectfully disagree with your statement that acting Mayor Solomon was in a no-win situation when he gave in to the School Committee. If he didn't give in, I highly doubt the School Committee (SC) would have taken the City to court because if they did the actual numbers of what they spend on THEMSELVES would be subpoenaed and the public would finally see where their money is being spent. (over one-and-a-half-billion since 2009). If it did end up in court I strongly believe it would blow up in the faces of the School Committee. (remember the Ragosta Report?) What Solomon did was to set a precedent though. Now, if the SC doesn't get their way, they will threaten a lawsuit and Solomon will give in. Bad management in my opinion.

I appreciate that you agreed that you "veer off topic" at times. I also agree that I also suspected that the $5million for the road repair was going to used as a slush fund. Solomon proved that, didn't he? Finally I STRONGLY agree with you that "when you try to please everybody, you end up pleasing nobody". That's why, for years now, I have listened to the "80,000 taxpayers that are paying the tab." And ONLY them. As an elected official, I think we have an absolute obligation to do their bidding, not the bidding of the political insiders! That is why I campaign every day to "Cut Taxes - Cut Spending". That's why I call myself "The Taxpayers Mayor". Catering to the political insiders is why Solomon voted for every tax increase this century! (except in 2017 when my campaign put a stop to it.) As acting Mayor he already hit the taxpayers in 2018 with THE LARGEST TAX INCREASE ALLOWED BY LAW! So Scal, if you are a political insider (and I think that you are) you will vote for Solomon. If you are more of a taxpayer, then please vote for me. I won't try to please everyone, just the "80,000 taxpayers that are paying the tab". I believe you are one of the 80,000 as well.

Happy August Scal1024.

Happy August everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Thursday, August 9
CrickeeRaven

Scal, there is just no limit to how much the make-believe mayor will lie, is there?

"[T]he public would finally see where their money is being spent."

We know that the school department publishes its budgets and annual audits online for anyone to read. The make-believe mayor is lying about public access to this information.

"I have listened to the '80,000 taxpayers that are paying the tab.' And ONLY them... I won't try to please everyone, just the '80,000 taxpayers that are paying the tab.'"

I am sure you see the obvious defects in these statements -- 80,000 is the entire population, or "everyone," living in Warwick. He also did not "listen" after 2016 when 65% of voters told him they did not want him as mayor. We also know from his pandering statements to the WTU that he wanted the support of 900 teachers [and failed to get it, as they contributed to Solomon's campaign]. That's not "everyone."

"[I]f you are a political insider (and I think that you are) you will vote for Solomon. If you are more of a taxpayer, then please vote for me."

Another statement with a number of defects. The people he calls "political insiders" this year are the same people who made contributions to his campaign in 2016. He can not prove that everyone who rejects his candidacy is somehow politically connected. He is not among those taxpayers, since he did not pay the property taxes on his former residence in Warwick for four years and lost the property to tax sale.

We are seeing the final, pathetic attempts by the make-believe mayor to actually make something out of his disgrace of a campaign. And as has been the case with so much of his past behavior, he will utterly fail.

Thursday, August 9
MisterP

Some of you just don't understand. Don't give any credence to Corrente, if you do you have gone off topic. Stick to the issues--the budget and the city/school committee. That's what the article is about. Just my opinion. I'm done.

Thursday, August 9
Scal1024

Rick, you continue to lie and distort facts. You continue to ignore your tax delinquencies, as well as your multiple foreclosures. You are unable to respond whenever your plans are exposed as nothing more than talking points and propaganda. The reason you have to lie so much is to hide from your own terrible record of litigation losses and unpaid bills. You cannot represent the taxpayers when you don't know what it's like to pay your taxes.

You have admitted that close to 80% of the money the school department is spending is salary and benefits, yet you seem worried about the 20% you claim is "unaccounted for". This is of course false as that information is public.

You should not be allowed to run for office when you are so uninformed. You have been exposed as a liar who will say anything to get elected. You loaned your campaign $40,000 in 2016 which you burned to gain a miserable 35% of the vote. This election you have $34 in your campaign account. I'd hate to break it to you "Tax Delinquents Mayor" Corrente but when your campaign account has $34 in it its not just the political insiders that aren't supporting your campaign. That means hardly anybody is supporting your campaign. If your campaign had such an impact WHERE IS ALL YOUR SUPPORT? It all amounts to $34. You can call me a "political insider" all you want, you know it is a baseless lie. One thing I will never be Rick is a deadbeat that doesn't pay their taxes on time or their water/sewer bills. You won't see me being taken to court and losing repeatedly as you have. I've also never lost a property to foreclosure, Rick. What's worse is that you lie about everything. All verifiable information that has been sourced each time it was posted. Primary day can't come soon enough. Then honest, hard-working taxpayers will hopefully rid themselves of this deadbeat from ever running for Mayor again.

Thursday, August 9
patientman

I'm with MrP. When I see Corrente post something ridiculous I just scan through to see if there are posts from anyone other than the Captain, Scal, Idiot, etc. that regularly flog him here. Although maybe I wil vote in the Democratic primary for Corrente just to get him off of here.

Friday, August 10
Scal1024

Aw patientman, I'm flattered. If you wish for Corrente to comment on every article free of facts and unchecked good for you. I disagree. I'm sorry you are offended by that. I challenge you to point out anything I've said that wasn't true. If a candidate is going to post on a public forum their record and their "plan" is fair game. I would love to hear your argument against that. Otherwise if you don't wish to explain yourself, don't read my comments. I don't want narrow minded people reading them anyways.

Friday, August 10