EDITORIAL

Council displayed good vigilance, now make the right decision

Posted

Some will be disheartened to read that the Warwick City Council delayed the question of whether or not to support an $85 million bond to provide all schools throughout the city with crucial repairs.

Take solace in the fact that the curtain has not closed on this issue just yet. The council reconvenes Tuesday, Jan. 30 to give one last crack at the issue. If the council chooses to throw support behind the bond, the school department will be able to submit the Stage 2 application to RIDE just in time prior to the Feb. 1 deadline.

In the case of Monday night’s meeting, where Council President Joseph Solomon made the ultimate decision to hold off on voting on the resolution to support the bond put forward by Mayor Avedisian. This publication agrees the decision should not have been made due to an inarguable lack of crucial information with which the council was privy to.

The resolution itself referenced an “attachment” that would outline further details of the bond should it be passed by the council. However no attachment was included with the packet received by council members. Even if this was a purely boilerplate, legalese-laden document that merely states the obvious, it is prudent of the council to not act on a document that doesn’t include attachments that it advertises.

Secondly, a representative of the administration should have been present to answer questions regarding the fiscal impact of a new bond on the city’s financial outlook and the down-to-the-dollar costs it would saddle onto the backs of taxpayers in the city.

Even if those answers were moving targets, dependent on different variables – such as cost of construction materials or upcoming debt scheduled to go off or onto the books and most import as much as 50 percent state funding – it would have been helpful to have either the city’s bond counsel or someone briefed on all the specific details to provide those facts to the council.

For these reasons, it was prudent to not vote on the matter and hold it. However, this publication also must take issue with the troubling response levied by certain members of the council in regards to the bond.

First and foremost, the state of school buildings in this city should mean that building new is off the table for a variety of reasons. Building a new junior or senior high school, Ed Ladouceur and Steve Merolla have suggested multiple times, would only benefit a fraction of the student population whereas as now planned the bond be used to make crucial repairs at every school in the district – all of which need work today, not years from now.

Unless both councilmen are willing, in an election year, to publicly declare that a majority of schools in Warwick will simply have to continue to rot, degrade and become further dilapidated, this politically sexy but wholly unrealistic notion that building a singular new school is the right way to go must end, as it does nothing but sew disinformation about the reality we find ourselves in.

The school department has also taken bricks to the head repeatedly for supposedly failing to properly maintain the district’s buildings. This, too, is a politically convenient way to ignore facts. The current administration didn’t defer maintenance for decades. They have been here for just a handful of years and have been, essentially, trying to play catchup. And regardless of your opinion on their management efficiency, no amount of preventative maintenance will make a 50-year-old school HVAC system run like a new one.

That, in essence, is what this whole bond issue comes down to. It is a way to buy some time – while giving our kids an acceptable school setting to learn in – to develop a master plan for what can be done in the years to come. With the favorable reimbursement formula from the state right now, it will come at a comparatively minor cost to the city – which, all things considered, is adding money in surpluses each year – and to the taxpayers, who should care enough to invest in their community’s schools.

The notion is far from perfect, but perfection isn’t really an option on the table. The school department has been transparent about the need, and they assembled an item-by-item list of what will get fixed with the money. They have rendered themselves easily accountable if they go off book – which is evidence that some council members’ continuing distrust of the department is rooted in little more than paranoia of ghosts of the past.

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richardcorrente

Taxpayers have given the School Committee (SC) $160 million every year since 2009. That's over a BILLION AND A HALF DOLLARS. Until they account for that money, I say "Don't give them another dime!" Much of that money was supposed to be spent on "repairs and renovations" of our schools.

It wasn't.

What makes anyone think they will spend this "bonus" money any better?

They won't.

Happy Valentines everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Thursday, January 25
CrickeeRaven

School budget documents are published online so taxpayers can read for themselves how the school department accounts for the money provided to it: https://www.warwickschools.org/departments/district-financial-documents/

Here is the verifiable and publicly available information about the FY18 school budget that the fake "mayor" does not read before making statements like "Much of that money was supposed to be spent on "repairs and renovations" of our schools." https://drive.google.com/file/d/1C2grOY8Maga1eENE63c76T285ZMxFiIS/view

Page 5 of this document shows that, of $165,753,523.86, $3,347,627.61 is listed as "capital equipment and property," representing 2.01% of the budget. This, apparently, is the "much of" the school budget that he insists should pay for the school renovations currently under discussion.

The rest of the budget [97.99%] is for salaries and benefits and for meeting state mandates and other legal requirements like paying bonds, funding transportation, covering tuition costs for out-of-district placements, providing fire and building insurance, and other items.

- "I say 'Don't give them another dime!'"

The city council, held 9-0 by members of his party, gave the school department $3 million to cover costs related to the teachers' contract. Clearly, even members of his own party agree that the school department accounts for its money and reject the fake "mayor's" suggestion of withholding school funding.

Despite having this information posted in reply to his comments multiple times, the fake "mayor" continues to willfully ignore all of it in favor of repeating his already disproven and objectively false, delusional statements.

Happy 283 days until honest, taxpaying voters again reject his false claims.

Friday, January 26
richardcorrente

In 2006 the City Council approved a $25 million dollar bond similar to the $40 million dollar bond being asked for today. No money was released by the Mayor until 4 or 5 years went by and that money was supposed to go for fire alarms, safety doors, cameras etc. Did that happen or was the money used for political reasons? Also, the payments for repairs to buildings owned-by-the-City were charged to the schools. Can anyone explain why? Does ANY tenant ever get charged for the Visa card of the landlord?

Now we have history trying to repeat itself. We ALL agree that repairs are desperately needed. If we were in Massachusetts, Warwick would be required by state law to hire a "clerk-of-the-works". That is an independent person hired to monitor every dollar spent! He/she doesn't work for or report to the School Committee. He/she doesn't work for or report to the Mayor. He/she works for the taxpayers because it would be the taxpayers money he/she would be authorizing. Any Massachusetts project over $1.5 million REQUIRES a "clerk-of-the-works" also known as an "Owners Project Manager". If this $40 million dollar bond request had an independent "clerk-of-the-works" clause, I would support it. I would recommend it to the 80,000 taxpayers that are paying the tab. For years I have been calling for an independent audit of the School Committee. This idea would provide that same kind of monthly supervision, at least for this project. Plus, the School Committee wouldn't have to hear me complain about it.

If that sounds like a win-win situation; if the intent of this bond request truly is for the betterment of our schools, then someone please suggest it. I will keep my word and support it fully. You can hold me to it and I'm sure you will.

Thank you.

Happy Valentines everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Tuesday, February 13