EDITORIAL

No tax increase budget not without consequences

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While the Warwick City Council touts its no tax increase budget, which surely is a relief to taxpayers, it might be better off labeling it the “now you see it, now you don’t” budget.

In a twist that left those who follow municipal finances scratching their heads, the council pledged to give schools an additional $3 million – an amount the mayor plugged in his budget – but took the money out of the budget. In the same breath, the council said it would give the schools $3 million if the school administration and committee reach an agreement with the Warwick Teachers Union.

Where would that money come from if it hadn’t been budgeted?

The answer is the city would take it out of the $18.5 million rainy day fund to make everything fair and square.

We favor ensuring there are sufficient funds to bring an end to the ongoing strife between the union and the School Committee. Let’s get this gnawing disagreement behind us and rebuild the reputation Warwick schools once enjoyed.

In comments to the council, the mayor called himself a “political realist” and said it would be futile to veto budget amendments that were unanimously approved by the council. And while he doesn’t state it, the mayor is also acknowledging there’s nothing for him to gain, and a lot for him to lose politically, in fighting to restore a tax increase while the council argues the city can run without one.

That said, the taxpayers should understand it’s not all smooth financial sailing.

In his message to the council, Scott Avedisian cites instances where the council made cuts that can’t be implemented because they lacked the authority or the city is required to make the expenditure by state mandate. As for schools, the mayor points out the elimination of the $3 million may hamper mediation and what he sees as progress toward a contract.

We take solace in the fact that the council is saying it is prepared to fund a teachers’ contract and, more importantly, that thanks to a record $10 million surplus for the year ending last June, the money is available.

Warwick taxpayers will get a break from years of tax increases with this budget. That’s good. But let’s be realistic, too. If the School Committee and the teachers reach an agreement, which we pray they do, this is not a balanced budget and an amendment will be needed to take the money out of the rainy day fund.

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