Council will consider $1.3M to save sports

Posted 7/11/19

By ETHAN HARTLEY The Warwick City Council is putting the ball in the Warwick School Department's court - and it remains to be seen whether or not they're willing to play. City Council President Steve Merolla called Wednesday afternoon to report he was

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Council will consider $1.3M to save sports


The Warwick City Council is putting the ball in the Warwick School Department’s court – and it remains to be seen whether or not they’re willing to play.

City Council President Steve Merolla called Wednesday afternoon to report he was docketing an item under unanimous consent to appear on the agenda for Monday night’s meeting, which if approved would allocate $1.3 million to the schools – enough to feasibly save school sports from being cut.

Merolla envisioned that money would have to come from various line items. He mentioned the $1 million line for “contingencies,” which is included as a means to cover prospective cost increases from new contracts, overtime and the road paving budget as three possible sources, although the ultimate decision would be up to the entire council. Merolla said Mayor Joseph Solomon would have input as well.

However, there is a catch. The schools would only receive the money if they agreed to use it to restore sports programming – and nothing else.

That’s likely to be an issue of contention with the schools, who have repeatedly insisted that there is a long line of priorities – 16 to be exact, according to their itemized list of cuts that made up $7.7 million in order to balance their budget in June, amounting to about $2.6 million – that come before restoring the athletics program.

Merolla said that the two sides have more time to come to an agreement on how to restore the other crucial school items that lack adequate funding, such as textbooks, elementary teaching assistants and student assistance counselors, but that the school sports program has a more stringent time restriction due to the need to generate schedules for the fall.

“The other issues we have a little more time to act on, but we only have one council meeting in July,” Merolla said. “I don’t think there's any reason the school committee should say no other than out of principle...We can work on other issues at mediation.”

Mayor Joseph Solomon confirmed on Wednesday that, despite a clash last week where the schools accused Solomon of trying to “narrow” mediation talks to solely be about school sports – to which Solomon snapped back as being “disingenuous” – the two sides continued to be in communication with each other as recently as Tuesday.

Merolla admitted that there were “a lot of other issues on the table,” but that restoring sports was particularly “pressing.”

“The kids should not be held hostage,” he said. “I think this is the right move for the community, it's the right move for the kids, it's the right move for the school committee and it’s the right move for the city council.”

Superintendent Philip Thornton was unable to return with a statement by press time in response to the development. School Committee Chairwoman Karen Bachus did not return a phone call seeking comment.


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  • Former User

    Can someone please explain to the city council that they can not dictate how the school department spends money?

    The school committee is the only entity allowed by law to decide how its money is spent.

    Council President Merolla is either ignoring or forgetting the law, and despite his own words that "The kids should not be held hostage," he is holding the kids hostage by insisting that, as the Beacon reports, "The schools would only receive the money if they agreed to use it to restore sports programming – and nothing else."

    Add this to the long list of reasons that the city would lose any Caruolo lawsuit -- if the city can "find" $1.3 million in its own budget, there's no reason it can't find more and properly fund the school department.

    Thursday, July 11, 2019 Report this

  • Scal1024

    The School Committee should take the $ being offered by the Council, apply it to classroom and educational items FIRST and then let the Administration and City Council decide if they are willing to go to court to try and argue that they have the authority to dictate how the $ is spent or that school sports are more of a priority than cuts effecting day to day education. It makes a great headline for the Council and it sure is a great talking point for them to use at the 4th of July parades but it doesn't do a thing to help our broken school system. The word that seems most fitting here is LAZY. This is a lazy, uninspired, short term fix by a lazy, uninspired, short term thinking Council. Shame on every single one of them that support this drivel!!!

    Thursday, July 11, 2019 Report this

  • patientman

    Scal, taking the money & using it for anything other than sports wouldn't be in the best interest of the city or future city WSD relations.

    We need to keep in context that everyone owns some of this dumpster fire. The electorate, former electorate that voted for the bums in power & then left, former Mayor, current Mayor, current CC, former CC, current SC, former SC, union, former union members, parents, former parents, students, former students. This situation calls for nuanced negotiations. No one in F Troop has the skill set.

    Let's hope D'Amico walks on water, turns water into wine & spins hair into gold.

    I knew we weren't actually going to have any money for road repairs.

    Thursday, July 11, 2019 Report this

  • Thecaptain

    I am sure by now that everyone understands that the first 4.5 million of the 7.7 million shortfall will go to the greedy teachers who used the kids and parents as paws. Did everyone forget about the sick outs and the rally's at city hall with all of the students? Let us also not forget that union lover Karen Bachus was the strongest voice in giving out the 13.46 million in raises to the teachers who produce some of the worst results in the state and in New England. Nice going. And the DOPES on the city council, thats right, dopes, think that they will consider this move in the absence of a legal opinion and some form of legal documentation that will hold the school department to terms that the 1.3 mil will only go to sports.

    They all need to go.

    Thursday, July 11, 2019 Report this

  • wwkvoter

    Maybe DONNA TRAVIS can figure out a solution?

    Thursday, July 11, 2019 Report this

  • Justanidiot

    lets let the remaining skuls crumble just so widdle johnny can kick a ball.

    Friday, July 12, 2019 Report this

  • Bowdeen

    If the school committee takes the money there's little chance "an agreement on how to restore the other crucial items that lack adequate funding" will happen. The checks in the mail !!!! Stand your ground. Textbooks, elementary teaching assistants, and student assistant counselors are more important.

    Friday, July 12, 2019 Report this

  • Former User

    Fed up, the teachers contract is part of the baseline school budget and has been for three budget years. In other words, it's being paid with the money the school department already has.

    The $7.7 million would pay for a whole list of other things not related to the WTU teacher contract -- here's the list of proposed cuts as the Beacon reported it:

    All sports; All clubs; Technology – Chromebooks, computers; All new textbooks; All Teacher Training and [professional development]; Cut Teacher assistants; Cut maintenance personnel; 2nd shift custodians not restored; Cut Mentoring; Cut VOWS; Cut High school accreditation process; Cut (CCRI) graduation.

    Maybe you can point out where it says "WTU teacher contract," because I don't see it.

    Whether you agree or not, the city is legally responsible for paying the teacher contract that ended all of the sick-outs and other things the teachers did.

    That's not going to change, and neither is the state law that prevents the city council fro telling the school department how to spend its money.

    I do agree with you on one thing -- we are not getting anywhere near the student achievement that we should be getting for the money we spend on schools in Warwick.

    Friday, July 12, 2019 Report this

  • wwkvoter

    Just imagine if student enrollment hadnt reduced in half over recent years. Wow. We cant even pay for a decent education for half this amount of kids that includes sports (which gets some kids into college)?

    Another big issue which is no one's fault is that many teachers are at top step. Maybe when we see retirements there will be some savings there. I wonder if they've looked at average retirement ages and predicted this factor?

    I'm scratching my head now not sure how this is ever going to be fixed all the way around. We're in a tight fix for sure.

    Friday, July 12, 2019 Report this

  • Happy

    Exactly what I stated before, the council will come up with more money and this isn't even August yet!

    AND, if the SC wants more, the council will cave in!

    There is an upside to this folks, kids will have sports and the money for the new rotaries will pay for it!

    Saturday, July 13, 2019 Report this

  • FredGordon01

    All I see here is why we shouldn't support our future by the very same people who will be whining and bitching when crime goes up and the education level dips even more.So lets not chip away at the problems created by ALL these so called adults and educators(mostly at the top,starting with Thorton who is a clown here and at previous posts).As I see these comments its either ALL or nothing well people this problem didn't happen overnight and it isn't going to be solved overnight ,the Mayor (present and previous),the city council and the school committee are ALL to BLAME now you ALL have to grow up and do whats right for our future and our kids ,who are our future ,and do the job you are ELECTED to do or get OUT of the way.

    Monday, July 15, 2019 Report this

  • Happy

    Sadly there comes a time where "the rubber meets the road"!

    The tax bills that just came out are crazy!

    I really believe that to put the SC on notice the City Council should LET THEM cut the sports, period!

    This will have the students and parents take notice of who they elected and what they are getting for their tax dollars, certainly not a high quality education. Could even cause some to sell and move vs just whining!

    It's a thing called "Tough Love!".

    Monday, July 15, 2019 Report this

  • ThatGuyInRI

    Same old, same old.

    Why is it that in town after town, city after city, year after year school systems get underfunded and nobody cares. Textbooks don't get bought, programs don't get run and nobody cares. Teachers aids, librarians, art and music teachers get laid off and nobody cares. Special ed teachers get laid off and nobody cares.

    Eventually, no more cuts are possible and sports have to go. THEN people finally take notice and demand, "we can't cut sports!" Yes we can.

    Maybe the idiots in Providence should repeal the law that forbids charging students for EXTRA-curricular activities like sports when many other states...Massachusetts for one...allow a pay to play system?

    Quit complaining about sports and address the real issues. And BTW, the tax increases in Warwick are not "rediculous" as some would have you believe. Get over it. Many people will never pay enough in taxes to cover their kid's education, deal with that reality.

    Monday, July 15, 2019 Report this

  • perky4175

    they do not need school sports stop wasting my tax money

    Tuesday, July 16, 2019 Report this

  • whomewhy

    I hope most people in Warwick enjoyed their 20 to 25 percent real estate tax increase this year. I know I sure did. Cant wait to see what happens in the next two to three years. Oh boy!

    Tuesday, July 16, 2019 Report this

  • whomewhy

    I know Warwick skuls are bad but least they arent a joke like Providence skuls. Least we better than Providence skuls right?

    Tuesday, July 16, 2019 Report this


    Try 4 Mil you don't think they would give less big show. How about that ladder company that the mayor bought . now were out 25 k and I heard it cost over 20 k to get it ready. came with nothing . who going to pay for that. MISTAKE. what was this signs saying Solomon save 1800 on taxes that can,t be right. The soap just keeps going .

    Tuesday, July 16, 2019 Report this

  • JohnStark

    First, it's clear that the council can not dictate to the school committee how to spend money allotted to it. Which is why not one additional nickel should be allotted. The teachers union does what unions do: Seek higher pay and more benefits. The union has been successful largely because cowardly local pols have caved to demands that always begin with "'s for the children" prior to publicity stunts. Is ANYONE on the school committee or city council exploring ANY of the following systemic issues:

    1. A gradual transition from a defined benefit retirement plan to a defined contribution plan, much like the rest of the world is doing, and especially for younger employees.

    2. An acknowledgement that the very concept of a "teachers union" is archaic, and a refusal to recognize the union in any future negotiations.

    3. What, exactly, are Warwick taxpayers getting in exchange for an expenditure of $19,000 per student in 2019-2020? Compared with cities in Mass. of comparable size (Somerville, Newton, and yes Lawrence) Warwick students are vastly inferior in standardized measures of achievement.

    4. A limited voucher plan which would allow lower income kids (who are most at-risk) to escape a failed system. $10,000 would follow every student to whatever public, private, or parochial school his/her parents chose. If tuition is less than $10k, the school department retains the difference. More than $10k and the family is on the hook. Such a plan would emphasize what is in the best interest of the student, not the 'system', and cease the practice of enabling a failed system with every more taxpayer resources.

    Of course, Happy is right. The council will cave. None of the above will ever be discussed. Programs will be reinstated. Underperformance and outright failure will reign. Those with financial means and know how will continue to flee a system where accountability is ignored. And the SC will come back next year seeking additional funds...for the children.

    Tuesday, July 16, 2019 Report this