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  • Avedisian Signs $305 Million Budget, Notes Council’s Cuts Will Not Have Intended Effects

     Warwick City Hall.

    Warwick City Hall.

    WARWICK, R.I. — Mayor Scott Avedisian has signed the Warwick City Council’s $305,271,375 FY18 budget, leaving its level tax rate intact, but warned the councilors amendment cuts will not have the implied effects on the city’s operation.

    Taxes will remain at the following FY17 rates for FY18: $20.24 for the residential/property tax; $30.36, commercial; $40.48, tangible; and $34.60 for the automobile tax.

    Avedisian expressed concern about the Council’s decision to sequester $3 million in Warwick School Department funding pending a new contract between the schools and the Warwick Teachers Union. The Warwick School District and Teachers Union have been locked in a negotiation stalemate since November 2015.

    “The cut of $3 million proposed for the Warwick School Committee may certainly hamper mediation and progress that has been made in resolving this long contract dispute. At the request of the Warwick Teachers Union and Warwick School Committee, I joined mediation talks earlier this year. Just last week, significant progress was made. I am encouraged that the parties will meet again on Friday.

    “Make no mistake about it, I will be returning to the City Council in the future to ask for a special appropriation once mediation has brought forth an agreement,” Avedisian wrote in a letter to the Council.

    On Wednesday morning, Courtney Marciano, Avedisian’s press secretary, said the expenditure of the sequestered $3 million would not affect the tax rate.

    The Mayor also informed the Council that their intent to remove a $15,000 salary increase for the Warwick Public Library Director Chris LaRoux by amending line Item 43-101, was beyond their power and will not result in that specific line item being reduced.

    “I would remind Council members that you do not have the authority to do so,” Avedisian wrote, referencing Chapter 29-4-6 of RI General Laws and also Chapter 29-4-7:

    29-4-6 Powers and duties of trustees. The trustees shall take possession of the library, and shall, thereafter, be the legal guardians and custodians of the library. They shall provide suitable rooms for the library, arrange for the proper care of the library, choose one or more competent persons as librarians and fix their compensation, and make all needful rules and regulations for the government of the library and the use of the books; provided, that no fee for the use of the books shall ever be exacted.  
    § 29-4-7 Library funds. All appropriations from the city or town and state, and the income of all funds belonging to the library, shall be subject to the exclusive control of the trustees, and the several city and town treasurers shall pay, within the limits of the appropriations and other library funds in their hands, all bills properly certified by the trustees.

    Avedisian also reminded long-serving members of the Council of a similar message he sent in a 2004 veto message (embedded below). The Mayor wrote that it is his exclusive authority to hire and compensate employees based on Personnel Merit System rules and regulations.

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    “Accordingly the Fire, Management Information System, Department of Public Works and Department of Human Services budgets will operate under the total appropriation approved by the Council, but will administer their total appropriation as they best see fit to operate their departments,” Avedisian wrote.

    Councilmen Jeremy Rix and Ed Ladouceur’s two successful motions, each  reducing the $155,204 municipal salaries line item 46-101, in Human Services, by $4,000, a total of $8,000, with the stated intent of removing a raise for Senior Center program manager, seem misdirected, Avedisian said.

    “While discussions seem to suggest that they intended to reduce salaries at Pilgrim Senior Center, the Council actually voted to cut salaries contained in 46-101, which is the salary line item associated with the Department of Human services,” Avedisian wrote.

    Aveidisian noted that the Council’s reduction of $15,000 from the $75,000 rescue services (Fire Department Line Item 35-367) would not be sustainable given the state mandate requiring additional equipment on fire apparatus. He also pointed out that the Council’s reduction of Line Item 40-119 (salary seasonal, lifeguards) by $65,000 would not allow the City to comply with DEM staffing mandates, and would likely result either decreased beach hours or closed beaches, or a combination.

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    In September, one Parks and Recreation supervisory employee was fired and another resigned when an investigation into the drowning of  Jamil Stewart, 6, on Aug. 14, 2016, revealed there were only two lifeguards on duty that day, when DEM regulations required three.

    Finally, Avedisian said the $30,000 cut to the $60,000 Line Item 40-339 (instructional services) would cripple efforts to fully utilize the Cooper Building. The renovation of the Cooper Building into a Youth Center and Community Center is intended, in part, to take over services lost by the closure of the Buttonwoods Community Center.

    “I will continue to manage and run the City of Warwick, to the best of my ability, as Mayor, under the parameters of this budget,” Avedisian wrote.

    PCR-70-17 Letter to the Council from Mayor Avedisian
    PCR-70-17 Adopting & Setting the Tax Rate FY 2018 R-17-69 signed

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